Analysis

The More Things Change in Catalonia, the More They Stay the Same

The balance between pro- and anti-independence parties hasn’t changed.

Barcelona Spain
Buildings in Barcelona, Spain, December 10, 2017 (Unsplash/Marco Da Silva)

There are two ways to look at the result of Spain’s general election in Catalonia.

Change

  • Turnout was up, from 65 percent in 2016 to 77 percent.
  • The Republican Left replaced the center-right Together for Catalonia — the successor to the Democratic Convergence party that governed the region for decades — as the largest party in the independence camp.

More of the same

  • Turnout was already up in the last two regional elections, from 68 percent in 2012 to 75 percent in 2015 to 79 percent in 2017.
  • The balance between pro- and anti-independence parties is virtually unchanged.

So what to make of the result?

  • Turnout doesn’t affect the outcome. When the separatists mobilize their supporters, so do the unionists. Catalan society is split down the middle.
  • The center is shrinking. Democratic Convergence used to be for self-government, not independence. It joined the separatists when the then-conservative government in Madrid refused to negotiate about more autonomy, but many pro-independence voters still mistrust it. The left-wing alliance of Catalonia in Common and Podemos, which is for a legal independence referendum but against secession, won 15 percent on Sunday, down from 25 percent in 2016.

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