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Defeat and victory

Sunday’s vote in Catalonia was an electoral triumph but a failure as a plebiscite

No one can ignore this result. Everyone, including the government, must react. The elections held in Catalonia on Sunday night were incredibly significant. Despite the confusion over the character of the vote – was it a plebiscite or an election – and despite the poor quality of the debate during the campaign, the voter turnout was extraordinary, setting a historic record for regional elections of this kind.

In effect, the turnout not only exceeded that of the 2012 polls, but all of those that came before. What’s more, the number of voters rose in all areas, whether urban or rural. As such, the September 27 polls should bring about great consequences.

The desired character of a plebiscite on independence was deceptive, given the nature of the elections”

But what are those consequences? The outgoing regional premier, Artur Mas, positioned the vote as a plebiscite on the future of the region. “We want a plebiscite and that is what we will have,” he said at the close of the campaign. Meanwhile, Antonio Baños, the leader of the CUP party, a radical pro-independence group, stated before the polls that the pro-secession forces would need to win at least “50% of the votes, because these elections are a plebiscite.”

As EL PAÍS pointed out before the elections were held, the desired character of a plebiscite on independence was deceptive, given the nature of the elections – people were voting for parties, not a single question – and due to the lack of a legal framework.

With nearly 100% of the votes counted, the pro-secession parties did not reach half of the votes cast. But it is clear that the Catalan citizens have revealed themselves to be severely fractured into two blocs. The plebiscite on independence that the pro-independence groups wanted has been lost. This is a fundamental factor, in particular in an international context – especially when in other countries voting on similar questions an ample majority is usually required (Montenegro, Quebec, for example).

There should be an urgent reaction, with offers that lead to dialogue and solutions”

That said, as elections of particular importance, the results in terms of seats have been clearly in favor of independence. The main independence group, Junts pel Sí, was the clear victor, finishing well above the rising political force represented by Ciutadans (Ciudadanos, in Castillian Spanish), and the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC). This gives Junts the legitimacy to continue with its pro-independence strategy, providing, of course, that it does so strictly adhering to the law.

But no one now, including the central government, can ignore the result. There should be an urgent reaction, with offers that lead to dialogue and solutions, all of which can give an answer to the desire for change that has been clearly expressed by the Catalans. These solutions need to be given the stamp of approval of the central government in Madrid, which cannot continue to leave the course of events in the hands of the courts.

English version by Simon Hunter.


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