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Anti-independence parties close to victory in Catalan election: poll

Source: El Pais - Mon 18th Dec 2017
Anti-independence parties close to victory in Catalan election: poll

A new poll commissioned by EL PAÍS has indicated that it is still unclear whether pro-independence parties or the so-called constitutional parties – which are against independence – will triumph at the Catalan regional elections on December 21.

The poll comes just a week before the vote, which was called by Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy using emergency powers under Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution – a move that came in response to the passing of a unilateral declaration of independence in the regional parliament on October 27.

The tightly-contested election will pit parties determined to push ahead with secessionist plans against those want to protect Spanish unity and revive the regional economy which has been hit hard by the political crisis.

There are 135 seats in the Catalan parliament, meaning a party or bloc must win at least 68 to hold the majority. But the new poll by Metroscopia has indicated that it is not clear which party or group of parties will be able to reach a majority.

The voter intention survey shows that, for the first time, ballots cast for the constitutionalist bloc (44.9%) will outnumber those going to pro-independence parties (43.8%). However, the pro-secession parties are still ahead in terms of likely number of seats won. And with neither bloc looking set to achieve a majority, the Catalunya en Comú–Podem coalition, formed by the party of Barcelona mayor Ada Colau and the Catalan branch of Spain’s anti-austerity party Podemos, looks set to play a key role in the formation of any government.

On party-by-party basis, leading the poll is the constitutional party Ciudadanos with 25.2% of the vote. This would give the party, which was founded in Catalonia, between 35 and 36 seats – 10 more than they have today. Ciudadanos candidate Inés Arrimadas has taken a strong stand against the secessionist push, capturing voters who want a resolution to a crisis that has seen the region stripped of its autonomous powers.

The Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), which is strongly pro-independence, is close behind with 23.1% of the predicted vote and 33 seats, according to the Metroscopia poll. ERC is led by Oriol Junqueras who is currently in pre-trial detention facing possible charges of rebellion for his involvement in the unilateral declaration of independence. This is the first time a poll has placed ERC ahead of the other pro-independence parties in Catalan elections, but expectations are still a long way short of six months ago when the secession movement was full of optimism.

Fellow pro-independence party Junts per Cataluña, headed by ousted Catalan premier Carlos Puigdemont, who is no longer the target of a European arrest warrant, is in third place in the poll with 14.3% of the vote and an estimated 22 seats. Following the unilateral declaration of independence, Puigdemont fled to Belgium where he has maintained his commitment to the secessionist push.

In the constitutional bloc, the Catalan branch of Spain’s Socialists (PSC) could win 14.3% of the vote, which would give them up to 20 seats, according to the poll. Miquel Iceta, the candidate for the anti-independence party, has focused his campaign on job creation and economic growth.

In fifth place is Catalunya en Comú–Podem, which is opposed to both the application of Article 155 and any universal declaration of independence in the region.

According to the poll, the coalition could win 9.5% of the vote, allowing them to maintain the 11 seats they currently hold in the Catalan parliament.

The radical anti-austerity party CUP, which supports independence, is predicted to take 6.4% of the vote and eight to nine seats. And in last place is the anti-independence Popular Party (PP) with 5.4% which could lose up six seats and be left with just five representatives.

The poll results paint a picture of more political uncertainty with neither group set to win an overall majority. If all the parties in favor of independence were to join forces, they would still only reach 63 seats – five short of an absolute majority. The constitutional parties would be left with 61. Catalunya en Comú–Podem has said it will not support either camp, leaving the political future of the region in doubt.

With record-high turnout of up to 82% predicted by the poll, the vote is tipped to be a divisive referendum on whether Catalans want to pursue independence.

EL PAÍS has applied its own model to determine the outcome of the elections. This model averages out the results of dozens of polls, estimates the distribution of those votes according to each region and calibrates for typical errors. The model was applied 10,000 times in each province to ensure greater accuracy.

The results from this process give Ciudadanos the lead with 22.4% of the vote, followed by ERC with 21.7%, Junts per Catalunya with 18.5%, PSC with 5.8%, Catalunya en Comú–Podem with 8.1%, CUP with 6.2% and PP with 6%.

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* Constitutional court annuls Catalan independence declaration

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