Catalan parliamentary election, 2015
The 2015 Catalan parliamentary election was held on Sunday, 27 September 2015, electing the 11th Parliament of Catalonia, the regional legislature of the Spanish autonomous community of Catalonia. All 135 seats in the Parliament were up for election. This was the third regional Catalan election in only five years, after the 2010 and 2012 elections and the first one in over 37 years in which Democratic Convergence of Catalonia (CDC) and Democratic Union of Catalonia (UDC) ran separately, after the dissolution of Convergence and Union (CiU) in June 2015 over disgreements on the coalition's separatist turn.
The plan to hold a snap election in 2015 was announced on 14 January by President Artur Mas. After the non-binding 2014 independence referendum, Mas declared that the election was to be turned into an alternative vote on independence, with pro-independence parties including the independence goal in their election manifestos. As part of the process, CDC, along with Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), Democrats of Catalonia (DC) and Left Movement (MES) would run together under the Together for Yes (JxSí) platform, with support from members of the pro-independence Catalan National Assembly (ANC), Òmnium and the Municipalities' Association for Independence (AMI). The alliance, however, failed to achieve its self-stated goal to attain an absolute majority on its own.
Newly-formed Podemos (Spanish for "We can"), Initiative for Catalonia Greens (ICV), United and Alternative Left (EUiA) and Equo stood together under the Catalunya Sí que es Pot (CSQP) label, a second novel electoral grouping formed for this election. The alliance was modeled after the Barcelona en Comú platform that won the 2015 Barcelona election, but it failed to garner the decisive support of the city's popular mayor Ada Colau and achieved a poor performance. Citizens (C's) benefited from its anti-independence stance and climbed to second place ahead of a declining Socialists' Party of Catalonia (PSC), which scored a new historical low for the third election in a row. The People's Party of Catalonia (PPC) suffered from its national counterpart decline and scored its worst result since 1992, whereas the left-wing Popular Unity Candidacy saw a strong performance which allowed it to hold the key to government formation with JxSí.
The 135 members of the Parliament of Catalonia are elected in four multi-member districts, corresponding to Catalonia's four provinces, using the D'Hondt method and closed-list proportional representation. As Catalonia had not passed its own electoral law by the 2015 election, the election was conducted under default rules provided in the Statute of Autonomy and under the Spanish general electoral law (Organic Law 5/1985, of the General Electoral Regime). As a result of the lack of an autonomous electoral law, seats were allocated to districts through specific laws or decrees for each election. For the 2015 election, seats were distributed as follows: Barcelona (85), Girona (17), Lleida (15) and Tarragona (18).
Voting was on the basis of universal suffrage in a secret ballot. Only lists polling above 3% of valid votes in each district (which includes blank ballots, which are counted for none of the above) were entitled to seats (several parties which had failed to cross the 3% electoral threshold in previous elections —such as Platform for Catalonia and UPyD—announced that they were not contesting the election).
After the 2012 parliamentary election resulted in Convergence and Union (CiU) unexpectedly losing seats, President Mas was placed in a difficult political position, as he fell 18 seats short of the absolute majority. He was forced to sign an agreement with Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), in which the latter pledged to support the government, albeit without entering a formal coalition, in return for a faster process to obtain the independence of Catalonia.
On 23 January 2013, the Parliament of Catalonia adopted the Declaration of Sovereignty and of the Right to Decide of the Catalan People, which stated that "The people of Catalonia have—by reason of democratic legitimacy—the character of a sovereign political and legal entity." This declaration was provisionally suspended by the Constitutional Court of Spain on 8 May 2013, and on 25 March 2014 the same court declared that it was void and unconstitutional due to the fact that the Spanish Constitution of 1978 makes the Spanish people as a whole the only subject of sovereignty. At the same time, opinion polls began to show ERC topping the voters' preferences for the first time since the 1932 Catalan election, with the CiU vote declining as a result of the 2012 election backlash, but also because of Mas' management of the economic crisis and the involvement of several CiU leading figures in several corruption scandals. Among those involved was party founder Jordi Pujol, charged in a tax fraud scandal related to an undeclared inheritance in Andorra, accompanied by allegations of bribery, embezzlement, breach of trust, influence peddling, forgery of documents and money laundering crimes allegedly committed during his time as President of Catalonia.
On 12 December 2013, the Government of Catalonia announced that a non-binding referendum on the independence issue would be held on 9 November 2014, for the purpose of giving independence leaders a political mandate to negotiate with the Spanish Government. Mariano Rajoy's government stated shortly after its intention to block such a referendum, which it considered unconstitutional and not within the competences of the Autonomous Community.
In spite of this, a not legally sanctioned referendum was held as scheduled, with over 80% voting for independence, albeit on a low turnout of around 40%. Independence parties considered the result a success. Artur Mas explained in a public act on 25 November his plan to reach independence, proposing calling an extraordinary parliamentary election—turned into an alternative vote on independence—at some point during 2015, on the condition that ERC agreed to join a common list with his party to stand together at the polls. ERC leader Oriol Junqueras agreed with most of the plan but initially refused such a joint list, threatening to break its government pact with CiU in order to force an election in early 2015. After weeks of calibrated brinkmanship from both sides, with CDC pushing for a joint candidature to cover for its forecasted loss of support and ERC refusing to run with Artur Mas as presidential candidate, both parties finally reached an agreement, and on 14 January 2015, Mas announced that a snap parliamentary election would be held on 27 September that same year, with the intention to turn in into the true plebiscite on independence.
Aside from the pact to hold an extraordinary election, the agreement also included to complete state structures as a basic element to culminate the process of "national transition" as well as negotiation of budgets. Mas and Junqueras also apologized for the rarefied political climate between the pro-independence parties in the negotiations that had taken place during the weeks prior to the announcement.
The Spanish Government, in response to the election announcement eight months ahead of the scheduled date, accused Mas of having "no interest in attending the Catalans' problems, nor it has any capacity to solve them". PP, PSOE and UPyD also criticized the announcement.
Tension within both parties forming the CiU federation had reached an all-time high in June 2015 due to differences between the positions the Democratic Union of Catalonia (UDC) leadership and Democratic Convergence of Catalonia (CDC) leader Artur Mas took over the sovereignty process. CDC was in favour of outright independence even if it meant breaking the established Spanish legality, while UDC was against doing it without a successful negotiation with the Spanish Government. As a result, a vote was held on 14 June 2015 between UDC members, asking whether the party should commit itself to continue with the process but establishing several conditions—including not violating the legality in force through unilateral independence declarations—or starting the constituent processes at the margin of legal norms. The first option, supported by UDC leaders and contrary to the signed agreements between CDC, ERC and sovereignty entities, was approved by UDC members with a narrow 50.9% to 46.1% choosing to stand at the side of CDC. After this, CDC issued an ultimatum to UDC for the latter to decide within "two or three days" whether it committed itself to the independence plan. On 17 June, after a meeting of the UDC leadership, it was announced that the party was withdrawing all three of its members from the Government of the Generalitat of Catalonia, although they agreed to maintain parliamentary stability until the end of the legislature. That same day at night, the CDC National Executive Committee met and in a press conference the next day confirmed that UDC and CDC would not stand together in the 2015 regional election, and that the political project of the CiU federation was over, spelling the end of 37 years of cooperation between both parties as Convergence and Union, a coalition which had dominated Catalan politics since the 1980s.
Junts pel Sí
Democratic Convergence of Catalonia (CDC), Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), Democrats of Catalonia (DC) and Left Movement (MES) agreed by mid-July 2015 to run together under the Junts pel Sí (Catalan for Together for Yes) joint separatist list, with support from the pro-independence Catalan National Assembly (ANC), Òmnium and the also separatist Municipalities' Association for Independence (AMI). Artur Mas was named as the agreed presidential candidate, even though, as a result of balance of power negotiations between ERC and CDC, he was placed 4th in the electoral ticket. Instead, the list was to be headed by three independent figures: Raül Romeva, former European MP for ICV who had left the party for not supporting independence; Carme Forcadell, former ANC president and Muriel Casals, Òmnium chairman. Oriol Junqueras would follow in 5th place.
The coalition was thus scheduled to comprise the ruling centre-right CDC; its supporting centre-left partner in Parliament, ERC; Democrats of Catalonia and Left Movement, pro-independence splits from UDC and PSC, respectively; as well as members from separatist sectors of the civil society. The Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP), which had also participated in the negotiations to form the unitary list, eventually refused on the grounds that "it was formed by politicians"—in reference to CDC and ERC's strong presence in the coalition's lists—and decided to run separately.
After the success of Ada Colau's Barcelona en Comú platform in the 2015 Barcelona municipal election, its member parties Podemos, Initiative for Catalonia Greens (ICV) and United and Alternative Left (EUiA) entered talks for coalescing into a similar, regional-wide coalition for the September election to run as an alternative to Mas' independence plan. By 15 July 2015, negotiations between the parties were already close to success, and it was agreed that they would stand together in the Catalunya Sí que es Pot electoral platform (Catalan for "Catalonia Yes We Can"). On 23 July, Lluís Rabell was presented as the platform's candidate for the regional premiership, while ecologist party Equo announced its intention to join the coalition on 29 July.
Run up to election
On 3 August 2015, President of the Generalitat of Catalonia, Artur Mas, signed the election call decree 9 pm at the Palau de la Generalitat and later made an appearance before the cameras of the Catalan Corporation of Media highlighting the extraordinariness of the proposal's background, which nonetheless did not mention the word plebiscite. The President justified the extraordinary meaning of the election after having unsuccessfully tried to negotiate a legal and agreed-to referendum with the Government of Spain. Mas, however, did not mention how much support did he considered necessary for proceeding with the independence process. Only pro-independence parties recognized the plebiscitary character of the election, with other parties arguing that—acknowledging the election's importance—it still was an election to the Parliament of Catalonia as many others had been held in the past. The PPC, PSC and C's, however, hinted on the possibility of a post-election pact to curb the independence process. The Spanish Government said it would keep a close watch closely the legality of the whole election process while demanding neutrality from Mas. Mariano Rajoy stated: "There won't be a plebiscitary election, as there wasn't a referendum", in relation to the 9 November 2014 vote. Several parties and media questioned the legality of holding the Free Way demonstration on 11 September, as it coincided with the start date of the election campaign.
Parties, leaders and slogans
|Together for Yes (JxSí)||Artur Mas||"The vote of your life"|
|Socialists' Party of Catalonia (PSC)||Miquel Iceta||"For a better Catalonia in a different Spain"|
|People's Party of Catalonia (PPC)||Xavier García Albiol||"United we win, stand up!"|
|Catalonia Yes We Can (CSQP)||Lluís Rabell||"The Catalonia of people"|
|Democratic Union of Catalonia (unio.cat)||Ramon Espadaler||"The force of common sense"|
|Citizens–Party of the Citizenry (C's)||Inés Arrimadas||"A new Catalonia for everyone"|
|Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP)||Antonio Baños||"Govern ourselves"|
|Together for Yes (JxSí)||1,628,714||39.59||+0.71||62||±0|
|Citizens–Party of the Citizenry (C's)||736,364||17.90||+10.33||25||+16|
|Socialists' Party of Catalonia (PSC–PSOE)||523,283||12.72||–1.67||16||–4|
|Catalonia Yes We Can (CSQP)||367,613||8.94||–0.96||11||–2|
|People's Party of Catalonia (PPC)||349,193||8.49||–4.49||11||–8|
|Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP)||337,794||8.21||+4.73||10||+7|
|Democratic Union of Catalonia (unio.cat)||103,293||2.51||–3.02||0||–9|
|Parties with less than 1.0% of the vote||46,095||1.12||—||0||±0|
|Animalist Party Against Mistreatment of Animals (PACMA)||30,157||0.73||+0.16||0||±0|
|Zero Cuts–The Greens (Recortes Cero–EV)||14,444||0.35||+0.28||0||±0|
|Let's Win Catalonia (Ganemos)||1,167||0.03||New||0||±0|
|Pirates of Catalonia–To Decide Everything (Pirata.cat/XDT)||327||0.01||–0.49||0||±0|
|Votes cast / turnout||4,130,196||74.95||+7.19|
|Source: Department of Interior and Institutional Relations|
Results by district
The election was won by JxSí, with 62 seats, but short of an absolute majority. As a result, JxSí required CUP's support. Voter turnout was an unprecedented high 74.95% of those with the right to vote.
Following the failure to choose a leader in January 2016 in which 1,515 CUP members voted for Mas and the same number voted against him, the assembly was due to be dissolved on 10 January and a new election called in March. Rajoy supported the new election on the grounds that it could "quash" calls for independence. However, a last minute deal was struck between Together for Yes and Popular Unity Candidacy to ensure a separatist government, although without Mas as President. On 12 January 2016, Carles Puigdemont i Casamajó assumed office as President of Catalonia thanks to an agreement between Together for Yes and CUP.
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