Global Independent Analytics

Spain deadlock deepens as political turmoil rocks Catalonia

Artur Mas will probably have to call early elections in Barcelona

Esteban Duarte for Bloomberg reports: political deadlock in Spain spins up as Catalonia staggers towards fresh elections and new national government formation.

Right after Madrid fell into doubt as the Catalan President Artur Mas lost anti-capitalist party support of his bid to put together an independent regional government, Barcelona followed Madrid’s path. Considering this, chances are that a region that holds about 20 percent of Spain’s turnout will face early elections in March.

The further unsteadiness in the region of Catalonia is anticipated and is related to last month’s results of general elections that did not provide clear majority for any political party. Furthermore, it is hard to foretell the outcome of the Catalan independence debate and respectively the probability of formation of a regional government which remains to be guessed.

“Spanish leaders are trying to find their place in an upturned political landscape after Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy lost his overall majority in the Dec. 20 election. The main opposition Socialists also lost backing as voters turned to emerging parties such as the anti-austerity group Podemos, which picked up votes in Catalonia by pledging support for an independence referendum. Rajoy, whose People’s Party took the most seats, has said he wants to build a broad-based government to defend economic growth and safeguard Spain’s national integrity in the face of Mas’s demands for independence,” Duarte continues.

The Catalan government transfers 8.5 billion Euros a year to the rest of Spain, and this amount is critical to Catalonia’s capability to pay social payments, fund hospitals and schools and service its debt. As long as Mas failed to create an independent regional government, it is believed that Rajoy or whoever will lead the new government will face a much easier task. However, the national standoff now wins over Catalan developments, with the Socialists cautious of any contract that would allow Rajoy hold his seat in government. “At the same time, a pact with the anti-austerity platform is tricky because of its insistence on pushing for a referendum on Catalan independence, said Talavera,” adds Duarte.

For years, Catalonia has fretted at the duty to finance poorer regions of Spain. “I am totally calm and willing to fight, to move ahead and also to face the powers in Madrid, which always try to stop this country from moving forward,” Mas told reporters Monday on his way in to the offices in Barcelona of his party Convergencia. Convergencia joined its separatist allies of Esquerra Republicana to form a platform known as Junts Pel Si to contest the regional elections in September,” Duarte assumes.

January, 9 is a deadline for Junts pel Si to gain the much needed support or confront new elections while choosing another candidate instead of Mas, who claimed that he would leave the field in the name of independence in Catalonia.

Duarte concludes: “The formation of a pro-independence government in Catalonia would have helped Rajoy’s push for a national “grand coalition” of the PP and Socialists with the liberals of Ciudadanos, according to Jordi Munoz, a political-science professor at Barcelona University. With that prospect replaced by the likelihood of new elections in Catalonia, the formation of a Spanish government in Madrid may be further delayed, he said.”

EXPERT OPINION

Joshua Tartakovsky

The key factor missing in the article is the wishy-washy approach taken by the Socialist Party (PSOE) headed by Felipe González. As an balance breaker standing in between, it could have either joined the center-right People’s Party or the supposedly anti-Capitalist Podemos. Alas, the Socialist Party already lost much of its votes due to the emergence of new anti-establishment forces and if it would have joined with PP it would have lost more of its core voters and the same applies if it would have joined with Podemos. The trap in which PSOE found itself is testament of the crisis of the system at large, not only in Spain but across social democracies throughout Europe.

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