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Catalan elections too close to call

Tuesday, 19 December, 2017 - 14:28

The latest opinion polls to come out before Catalan voters cast their ballots in Thursday’s general election point to a hung parliament as support for pro-independence and pro-unity parties run neck-and-neck. A survey by the Spanish daily paper El Pais conduct in the final week of campaigning showed the pro-independence Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) coming out on top with 33 seats, just about beating Ciudadanos (Cs), who want to maintain unity with Spain, by no more than two seats. The polls showed Junts per Catalunya, the party of the former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, winning 22 seats.

If these predictions are borne out, then the final tally of seats won by pro-independence parties (63) to pro-unity parties (62) will leave neither with a majority in the 135 seat parliament. This could leave the Catalan version of the left-wing Podemos party as kingmakers, a result that would be complicated by the fact that unlike most of the other left-wing parties they would want to form a coalition with, Catalunya en Comú-Podem, as they are called, do not support secession from Spain.

Thursday’s elections were called by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in October after Madrid imposed direct rule on the wealthy northeastern region in punishment for holding a controversial independence referendum that the Spanish constitutional court had declared illegal. The ousted Catalan President Carles Puigdemont has been campaigning from Brussels where he fled to avoid arrest in Spain, while the ERC leader Oriol Junqueras has been running for reelection from prison while being investigated on charges of sedition and rebellion for his part in the referendum.

In the final televised debate before all campaigning comes to a close on Wednesday, tempers flared as the parties clashed over the independence vote. Marta Rovira of Esquerra Republicana said that the Spanish state is “allergic to democracy… it does not respect democratic principles and that is what prevents our leader Oriol Junqueras from being here today.” Inés Arrimadas of Ciudadanos said that separatist politicians have “ruined Catalonia” and they ought to “get out of the republican bubble.”



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