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Three-Way Race for First Place in Catalonia

The Socialists are neck and neck with the two largest independence parties.

Salvador Illa
Spanish health minister Salvador Illa listens to a debate in parliament in Madrid, October 28, 2020 (PSOE/Eva Ercolanese)

Pro-independence parties are projected to defend their majority in the Catalan parliament on Sunday, but the regional branch of Spain’s ruling Socialist Party could place first in the election.

The Catalan Socialists, led by former health minister Salvador Illa, who resigned from Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’ cabinet two weeks ago to campaign, are polling at 21-23 percent, up from 14 percent in the last regional election and 20.5 percent in the last national election.

The Socialists and their allies in the far-left Podemos (We Can), who have 6-8 percent support, oppose Catalan independence but do want to give the region more autonomy. Although talks about transferring more power to Barcelona are still on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Separatists

The delay has divided the separatists. The Republican Left still believes in negotiations with Sánchez. The center-right Together for Catalonia insists the social democrat is no better than his conservative predecessor, Mariano Rajoy, who refused to even hear out Catalan demands and sent in riot police when the region tried to vote on independence in 2017. Led by the former regional president, Carles Puigdemont, who lives in self-imposed exile in Belgium, the party calls for unilateral secession from Spain.

The Republican Left and Together for Catalonia are polling at 19-22 percent each. Support for the anticapitalist Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP) is stable at 5-6 percent; enough to give the separatists another majority.

Unionists

On the other side of the political spectrum, support for the liberal-nationalist Citizens has collapsed from 25 percent in the last regional election to 8-10 percent in recent surveys.

Rajoy’s People’s Party is deeply unpopular in Catalonia and polling at 3-5 percent.

The far-right Vox (Voice), which wants to revoke Catalan home rule, would take another 5-6 percent, giving unionists opposed to (more) autonomy barely 20 percent support altogether.

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