Political turmoil in Spain following Catalan election
23 December 2017
Thursday’s election in Catalonia threatens to entrench still further the division between separatist and pro-Spanish unity sentiment in the region, destabilising Spain and the European Union.
The Catalan nationalist parties—Together for Catalonia (JxCat), the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) and the Candidatures of Popular Unity (CUP)—won a narrow majority of 70 seats in the 135-seat Catalan parliament, two fewer than in the previous election in 2015.
Their ability to form a coalition government by January 23 and hold an investiture vote by February 8 is placed in question by the inability of eight of the elected deputies to attend the parliament.
Five have fled abroad to avoid arrest following the invocation of Article 155 of Spain’s Constitution by the right-wing Popular Party government of Mariano Rajoy in Madrid. They include deposed Catalan Premier Carles Puigdemont of JxCat, which is the largest separatist party after the election. Three others are political prisoners, languishing in jail, including deposed regional Vice-Premier Oriol Junqueras. This could leave the separatists six votes short of the necessary 68-vote majority.
For the first time, a pro-Spanish unity party, Ciutadans (Citizens), known as Ciudadanos in the rest of Spain, won the greatest number of votes, but fell short of the numbers needed to form a government. It and the other anti-separatist parties—the Socialist Party of Catalonia (PSC) and the Popular Party (PPC)—won a combined total of 57 seats.
Catalonia en Comú (CeC)—the Catalan branch of the Podemos party, which claimed to be neutral between Spanish and Catalan nationalism, but which opposed the separatists’ call for unilateral…