Pro-independence parties increase Catalan majority

Catalan pro-independence parties have increased their parliamentary majority following a regional election in which the unionist Socialists took the largest share of the vote and the far-right Vox party outperformed its conservative rivals to win its first seats in the north-eastern Spanish region. Sunday’s election was overshadowed by the Covid pandemic and dominated by the continuing debate over independence that has shaped and divided Catalan politics for the past decade.
For the first time, pro-independence parties took more than half the votes, winning 51 percent – up from 47.5 percent in the last regional election in December 2017. Between them, they now hold 74 of the 135 seats in the Catalan parliament, an increase of four seats.
The Catalan Socialist party (PSC) finished first, winning 33 seats – up from 17 last time – and 23 percent of the vote. It was followed by the pro-independence Catalan Republican Left (ERC), which took 33 seats and 21.3 percent of the vote, and the centre-right, pro-independence Together for Catalonia party, which came third with 32 seats and 20 percent of the vote. Vox, which is the third biggest party in the national parliament, won 11 seats, breaking into the Catalan parliament for the first time and taking more seats than its rivals in the conservative People’s party (PP) and the centre-right Citizens party combined. En Comú Podem, the coalition that includes the regional branch of the far-left anti-austerity Unidas Podemos, retained its eight seats, and the pro-independence anti-capitalist Popular Unity Candidacy won nine.
The poll was triggered last September after the region’s separatist president, Quim Torra, was banned from office for displaying pro-independence symbols on public buildings during the 2019 general election campaign. With the election over, attention will now focus on the formation of the new regional government.
Torra hailed the results as a “resounding pro-independence victory”, while Laura Borrás, the Together for Catalonia candidate, said the fact that pro-independence parties had won more than 50 percent of the vote for the first time “has to have consequences for both the government and the parliament”.
But Salvador Illa, the former Spanish Health Minister who ran as the PSC candidate, said he would seek to be invested as regional president, adding: “The meaning of my victory is very clear – it’s time to turn the page.”
Spain’s Prime Minister, the Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez, tweeted congratulations to his former colleague. “Socialism has won the election,” he wrote. “Fantastic news for making change and reunion possible. Thank you, Salvador Illa, for giving us back the dream of forging a better future for Catalonia and Spain.”
Jéssica Albiach, the En Comú Podem candidate, said she would speak to Illa and the ERC candidate, Pere Aragonès, in the hope of forming a tripartite leftwing government.
Sunday’s election comes almost three-and-a-half years after the pro-independence regional government of the then president Carles Puigdemont pitched Spain into its worst political crisis in decades by defying repeated warnings from the Spanish government and courts to stage an illegal, unilateral independence referendum.