Fresh polls predict a virtual “technical tie” between the two main pro-independence parties in the elections to be held in Catalonia on 14 February. Socialist candidate and Spain’s former health minister Salvador Illa is predicted to come third. EURACTIV’s partner EFE reports.
In Catalonia, the much-awaited “Illa effect” expected among the ranks of the socialist party (PSOE) and the central government in Madrid could be jeopardised by pro-independence forces.
Madrid wanted to create a “seduction magnet effect” with Illa, a moderate Catalan high-profile candidate placed in the race by Spain’s socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.
However, opinion polls suggest otherwise. According to the latest survey by the Centre d’Estudis d’Opinió of the regional government released last Friday, the pro-independence parties Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC, Republican Left of Catalonia) and Junts per Catalunya (JxCat, Together for Catalonia) would obtain a “technical tie” in the election.
Candidates from all parties have encouraged the population to vote by mail due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has hit Catalonia particularly badly since January.
But with the percentage of undecided voters still high (33.7%), predictions at this stage are still premature, El Periódico de Catalunya reported.
Another poll published a few days ago by the state-owned Center for Sociological Research placed Salvador Illa’s Socialist Party of Catalonia (PSC) in pole position, with 30-35 seats in the regional parliament, followed by ERC (31-33) and JxCat (20-27).
The candidate of JxCat in the election is Laura Borràs but the party is chaired by Carles Puigdemont, the former Catalan president now turned MEP who currently resides in Belgium following his escape in 2017 with other members of the regional government following the failed referendum on Catalonia’s independence held on 1 October that year.
The region’s subsequent unilateral declaration of independence on 27 October was declared illegal by Spain’s Constitutional Court and Madrid issued a European Arrest Warrant against Puigdemont and his colleagues, accusing them among other charges, of “sedition” and “rebellion”.
Puigdemont, Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí – all former regional ministers now elected MEPs – are now protected by parliamentary immunity. The arrest warrants were temporarily frozen, pending a final decision by the European Parliament committee on legal affairs, likely to be issued next spring.
A new ‘unilateral declaration of independence’?
In Madrid, speculation is rife as to what the pro-independence forces would do if they were to win the election. Would they again try declaring the “independence” of Catalonia?
According to the latest polls, together, ERC, Junts per Catalunya, the CUP and PDeCAT could obtain around 48% of the total votes, almost similar results than in 2017 and in all the regional elections held in the last years in Catalonia (between 45-50%).
This election could once again split the population of Catalonia, which is divided between pro-independence and anti-independence groups.
Borràs, the leader of JxCat, said on Saturday at an event in Barcelona, that she will reactivate the unilateral declaration of independence that Puigdemont froze in 2017 if she wins and if the vote for the pro-independence exceeds 50%, as many polls predict.
“It will be necessary that all the actors of the independence movement make the necessary preparations to make it effective and must culminate with the activation of the declaration of independence,” she said.
[Edited by Frédéric Simon]