Snap Elections in Catalonia Bring Larger Uncertainty to Unstable Region

Politics - March 18, 2024

Pere Aragonès, the President of the Catalonia region of Spain, dissolved the regional parliament and called for a snap election after failing to pass the budget for the Autonomous Community.

On his Wednesday, March 13 announcement, the Catalan President said the regional elections will take place on May 12.

Aragonès, from the leftist Esquerra Republicana (ERC) party “assumed responsibility” for failing to get enough support for his budget.

According to the president—who, until last week led a fragile minority government—added that the opposition “vetoes have not been against the Government, but against the citizens of Catalonia, their interests, and the public services of the ‘country’.”

“This [‘the largest budget in Catalonia’s history’] would have allowed us to end with cuts in the labour conditions for teachers.”

In addition to cuts in education, the Catalan government is facing a series of issues, including problems in the regional health system and a massive drought. These are “urgent” conditions that, according to the Catalan president, warranted a snap election.

ERC only had 33 MPs in the 135 seat Parliament.

Aragonès called for the snap election on the eve of the Spanish Parliament’s approval of an amnesty law for Catalonian separatists.

This bill had been formerly rejected not only by the national opposition to the ruling Socialist government, but of Junts per Catalunya, the right-wing separatist party of the fugitive Carles Puigdemont.

The amnesty law has not ended its parliamentary trajectory. It must now be debated in the Senate, where the right-wing People’s Party (EPP) has a majority.

The Senate is set to reject the law. However, when it makes its way back to Congress, the veto will most likely be lifted.

Puigdemont is set to benefit from the amnesty law. According to him “The amnesty’s goal is to move on from an era of repression against a political movement.”

According to some analysis, the former president of Catalonia is planning his return to the office on this snap election.

However, Junts has not officially revealed who will lead its list for the May 12 contest.

The “constitutionalist” opposition has wasted no time to start organizing. The centre-right Citizens and Popular Party are already exploring a “collaboration” to run with a single list.

The Conservative VOX party (ECR) is set to run by itself.

The VOX leadership has high hopes for this election. They expect to increase their 10-seat presence in the Catalan parliament.

After the May 2023 municipal elections in Spain, VOX received 150 thousand more votes from the ones it received in the 2019 regional contests. That is a fivefold increase from some 36 thousand votes of 2019.

Currently VOX has a presence in 74 city halls in the Catalonia region, most of them in the provinces of Barcelona and Tarragona.

On the other side of the spectrum, the Socialist Party (S&D) just nominated the Catalan Socialist leader and former Minister of Health, Salvador Illa.

Illa has been questioned in the last two weeks about irregularities in the adjudication of contracts to procure masks during the COVID pandemic, a plot that involves key advisors of the Socialist government and Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s wife.

According to observers, the ever-growing scrutiny to the national Socialist Party over these corruption scandals will translate into disdain for Illa, thereby benefiting the leftist separatist alternative.

Spain is in the midst of an electoral super-cycle. The Galician elections took place last February, with an important surge for the separatists of that region. In April the Basques will have their own regional elections, which will be later followed by the May 12 snap election in Catalonia, and the upcoming European elections in June.