Understand in five points what is at stake in the Catalan elections

Understand in five points what is at stake in the Catalan elections

For the first time in a decade, independents lost their majority in a Socialist-led election

Thomas Cokes/AFPDemonstrators carry signs declaring “(Prime Minister) Pedro Sánchez is a traitor” during a protest called by the right-wing opposition against an amnesty project for people involved in Catalonia's failed independence bid in 2017, in Puerta del Sol square

a Catalonia On Sunday (12), regional elections were held with national repercussions. For the first time in a decade, independents lost their majority in a Socialist-led election from the Prime Minister's government. Pedro Sanchez. With 98% of the votes counted, the three separatist formations that until then had a majority, including the seat of Carles Puigdemont – the leader of the separatist attempt – will get 59 seats, less than the absolute majority of 68 seats, while the Socialists will get 59 seats. 42. Although the Socialists easily won the elections in this crucial region of eight million people, the formation led by Salvador Illa in Catalonia will have to form alliances to try to form a government. Sunday's election included some key points about this wealthy region in northeastern Spain, which has been ruled by separatists for nearly a decade and enjoys broad autonomy.

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Attempt to break up

Catalonia dominated international headlines when Carles Puigdemont's regional government organized a self-determination referendum on October 1, 2017, breaking a court ban. Later that month, the regional parliament unilaterally declared Catalan independence, prompting the Spanish government to immediately suspend autonomy and dismiss the executive. Key separatist leaders have been arrested or fled abroad to avoid justice, as was the case with Puigdemont.

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This crisis, one of the worst since Spain's return to democracy nearly half a century ago, continues to weigh heavily on national politics. Socialist Pedro Sanchez, who has been in power since mid-2018, was able to be re-elected in November last year with the support of the two main Catalan independence parties. In return, they received an amnesty law for separatists involved in the events of 2017. The text, which will be finally adopted in the coming weeks, is supposed to allow Puigdemont to return to Catalonia after six and a half years abroad.

Independents in power

At the beginning of the 2000s, in the midst of the financial crisis, the then regional president, the nationalist and conservative Artur Maas, adopted a pro-independence position, a sentiment that was growing among the population. Puigdemont, an ardent separatist from the same party, replaced him in early 2016 at the head of the region, which he led until a failed secession attempt in 2017. Since then, the separatists have managed to maintain a majority in the Catalan parliament.

In the last election, in 2021, they won 74 seats out of a total of 135. But their differences led Puigdemont's party, Together for Catalonia, to abandon government in October 2022, leaving Catalonia's Republican Left alone in power. The independence camp, which ranges from the far left to the center right, has seen the emergence of a new far-right formation in recent months, the Catalan Alliance, which, according to polls, could receive 3% of the vote on Sunday.

Great independence

In highly decentralized Spain, Catalonia, with a population of about 8 million, is one of the regions with the highest degree of autonomy. In addition to running health and education like other regions, it has its own police, the Mossos d'Esquadra, and has recently gained control of regional rail transport. As part of the agreement to re-elect Sánchez, the Socialists promised to take “measures allowing financial independence” for Catalonia, while Puigdemont's party calls for the transfer of management of 100% of taxes paid in the region.

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Economic engine

Catalonia is the second richest region in Spain and accounts for 19% of the national GDP, behind only Madrid (19.4%), which took the lead after the 2017 secession attempt such as Mango (textile sector), Puig (cosmetics), Grifols (). Pharmaceuticals) and Cellnex (telecommunications), it is the leader by far in terms of exports in Spain, with a share of 26.1% of the national total. As the country's industrial lung, its unemployment rate of 10.4% is well below the national average, which stands at 12.3%.

language

Catalan is the official language of the region, along with Spanish. Teaching is mainly done in this language, which is also commonly used in administration. According to data issued by the regional government last year, 86.8% of the region’s population understands Catalan well, and it is the mother tongue of 29.2% of them. Fearing a decline in its use, separatists defend it vigorously, and in 2023 achieved the possibility of using Catalan in the Spanish Parliament.

*With information from Agence France-Presse

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