CATALAN ELECTIONS 2015

Emerging party Ciudadanos plans final attack on two-party system

After success at the Catalan regional elections, leaders are heralding a new era in politics

Party leaders Albert Rivera and Inés Arrimadas, in Barcelona on Sunday.
Party leaders Albert Rivera and Inés Arrimadas, in Barcelona on Sunday.Massimiliano Minocri

The strong performance by emerging political force Ciudadanos (Citizens) at the Catalan elections on Sunday has prompted party leaders to raise their own goals ahead of the upcoming Spanish general elections, due to be held in December.

With 25 seats in the regional assembly, up from nine, Ciudadanos has suddenly become the second-largest presence in Catalan politics, after the pro-independence Junts pel Sí bloc headed by current regional premier Artur Mas.

With 25 seats in the regional assembly, Ciudadanos has suddenly become the second-largest presence in Catalan politics

The results confirm what opinion polls have been suggesting for months: that Ciudadanos stands a good chance at breaking the two-party system that has been in place in Spain since the return of democracy in the late 1970s.

By comparison Podemos, the other emerging party threatening the hegemony of the Socialists (PSOE) and the Popular Party (PP), fared much worse at the Catalan elections: 11 seats, and then only as part of a larger leftist alliance called Catalunya Sí que es Pot.

“We can now say that we know how to beat both the two-party system and populism. That’s going to have a pull effect,” says José Manuel Villegas, vice-secretary for Ciudadanos.

More information

Party leader Albert Rivera, who bills himself as Catalan, Spanish and European, now hopes that the mid-November opinion polls will certify that Ciudadanos has surpassed Podemos as Spain’s third political force.

“Our balance between union and regeneration was key, because these are two projects that neither the PP nor the PSOE can defend the way Ciudadanos can,” adds communications secretary Fernando de Páramo.

Founded in 2005 as a Catalan non-nationalist party, Ciudadanos made a jump to national politics last year and secured a presence in most regions at the May elections. In Madrid and Andalusia, Ciudadanos’ support was instrumental in getting premiers invested.

With a mix of progressive liberalism and social democracy, and a message of democratic regeneration, Ciudadanos has allied itself with both the PP and the PSOE at the regional level after forcing would-be premiers to sign a list of anti-corruption measures.

Founded in 2005 as a Catalan non-nationalist party, Ciudadanos made a jump to national politics last year

Until Sunday, the party was aiming for a ceiling of 43 deputies for its congressional debut at the general elections, which Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has not yet called officially but which are expected to take place in December.

But after the Catalan results, the new ceiling could be upwards of 60 congress members.

“The decadent two-party system is not working toward solving Catalonia’s problems,” says Rivera. “What’s required is a common project for Spain. The PP got the worst results in 30 years and the Catalan Socialists the worst of their entire history in Catalonia.”

“Without a project for Catalonia, you cannot govern Spain,” he adds. “We have the ability to lead this new period.”

English version by Susana Urra.