Catalan leaders announce early elections in September

Catalan MonitorFeature

Agreement for early election (Government of Catalonia)

2015 is definitely set to be a crucial year in Catalonia and Spain politics. Following Artur Mas’ call of regional elections, Catalans will be summoned to polling booths up to three times throughout the year.

Local elections, which will take place on May 25 all across Spain simultaneously, are regarded as the first likely stage of a political earthquake, which could easily transform the shape of bipartisan Spanish politics for good. Emerging left wing forces such as Podemos and the Guanyem movement are likely to deal a few political blows to the establishment parties, although it is yet unclear which role will they play in Catalonia, where the public debate has revolved around the issue of independence during the last two years.

 2015 highlights

May 25 – Local elections

Sep 11 – Catalan National Day

Sep 27 – Catalan election

Nov-Dec – Spanish general election

Just after the summer break, on September 11 –Catalonia’s National day– will mark the official kickstart of the Catalan election campaign. September 11 has been the background of the biggest pro-independence rallies in recent times, so it will prove to be another politically-charged celebration.

Roughly two weeks later, on September 27, separatist parties will seek to transform the Catalan regional election into a de facto referendum. Although there won’t be a single pro-independence list, the current biggest parties at the Catalan parliament, Convergència i Unió and Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya are confident that if they –and the rest of minor independentist parties– earn a sound majority, they will then be endorsed to pursue firmer actions towards declaring independence.

Finally, the Spanish general election will presumably be held in November or December at the latest. This vote is obviously crucial to Spanish politics, but it will surely have a big impact on the Catalan arena as well, as the new elected prime minister will be charged with dealing with Catalonia’s ambitions.

In this regard, the biggest shake-up would be a victory by the new and upsurging group Podemos, a leftist party led by charismatic MEP Pablo Iglesias, who is a fierce critic of the pro-independence thesis but would consider allowing a referendum on the subject in Catalonia.

A regional election or an independence referendum?

Beside competing electorally, parties in Catalonia will also battle over the meaning of the September vote. Supporters of independence need to put the message across that these elections are the equivalent of a secession referendum, whereas unionist parties will certainly try to deny any such consequences and limit the scope of the vote to the election of a new regional parliament.

The leading secessionist parties have failed to clarify exactly which steps would follow the September 27 vote but it is likely that a strengthened representation of the Catalan chamber will legitimise its leaders to start negotiations with the Spanish state.

In any case, the international press has so far interpreted the regional election as the next step in the Catalan separatist agenda.

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