Thursday, October 19, 2006

Elections in Catalonia

The Catalans are back to the polls, almost one whole year before the end of the mandate period, as a consequence of the approval of the new Catalan constitution “L’estatut”. That, and the fact that the governing coalition of three parties , the “Tripartit”, was broken on differences over “L’estatut” and a few other major troubles that untied the flimsily woven accord of governance.

Granted that the three parties, identified as “leftists” had major differences to start with, being the Catalan Socialists Party (PSC) a rather benign social-democrat much in the line of British Labour Party, the Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) a more radical Catalan nationalist republicans and the third member, Iniciativa per Catalunya-Verds (ICV), a melange of Euro-greens and what is left of the old Catalan Communist Party. Together they overcame the 23 year old governing coalition of rightist nationalists (CiU) while the representatives of the conservative party of Spain in Catalonia, the Partido Popular (PP) was just and excluded minority.

Now these five parties are again in the race and the perspectives are way up in the air.

The candidates are not precisely glamorous, rather lacklustre apparatchiks with long stories of wheelings and dealings in the convoluted Spanish political scene, but not very enticing for the common citizen elector.

The programs offer also very little. Catalonia is still very dependent of the Central Spanish Government. Although the new constitution, “L’estatut”, was meant to grant more autonomy, the final accord fell quite short of many Catalans expectations. The promise of getting more autonomy –and more money—from Madrid in developing the new “estatut” will not get much credibility, no matter who is promising. The socialists (PSC) because their Spanish counterparts, the PSOE, now in power in Madrid already cut the “Estatut” short, and the rest because they will have difficulties pulling off concessions from what are their political adversaries.

The Catalans are, however, a rather accommodating bunch. Prompted to compromises and used to find middle grounds in their way to conduct business, they come from a two millennium history of merchants and traders that once ruled the Mediterranean when outsmarted Venetians and Genovese and even the Popes during the Renaissance.

Today Catalonia is one of the leading countries (as a country it is, though not a state) in the economic development of Europe. What is being called “The Mediterranean Arch”, the coastland from the Italian Liguria all the way to Valencia, accepts Barcelona as its capital, over Marseille or Genoa. The commercial corridors from Milano to Toulouse are extended to Catalonia as the fastest developing region in Europe. Tourism is booming with almost ten million visitors this past year.

Catalans will not put any of this at risk by giving the majority to one single party. They had enough of that after 23 years with CiU, and the PSC, tto dependent of Madrid cannot pull out a majority either. My bet is that the share of the electoral pie will be pretty much the same it was in the last elections, with some minor changes that will be modulated in the post electoral accords between the parties, as the inevitable coalition government is constituted.

Long life to compromise.

1 comment:

Manuel Allue said...

Los catalanes estamos enfadados (en castellano y en catalán). Estem emprenyats. Hace poco rato les he dicho a mis alumnas que me iba a abstener, que estaba harto de pensar en quinielas, en pactos postelectorales y en combinaciones binarias, que ya no sirven para nada (¿alguien se acuerda de los "bits", los "binnary digits"?), en las ternarias o en las cuaternarias. Estamos viviendo la peor campaña, la más deplorable, desde los albores de esta fatal idiosincrasia (la democracia catalana y castellana), aunque sólo rima con "democrasia".

Pero el día 1, festividad de Todos los Santos, vamos a ir a votar. Metiéndonos en el bolsillo la mayor parte de las convicciones que tanto nos ha costado conseguir (¿las convicciones se consiguen o se adquieren?), guardándonos hasta las opiniones. O escondiéndolas en lo más recóndito: donde nos quepan.