Catalonia is facing its most important vote in its modern democratic history. Regional elections on 21 December 2017 are supposed to finally settle the independence issue once and for all. Following the triggering of Article 155, which allowed the Spanish government to impose direct rule over the region, political parties have been regrouping and preparing for the decisive vote. But will things look any clearer the day after the elections?

The vote is expected to be tight. Record turnout is expected (possibly more than 80% of eligible voters) and most polls suggest a tie between separatist and unionist parties. Every single vote will count in the race to get to the 68 seats required for an absolute majority in the regional parliament.

What do our readers think? We had a comment from Paul arguing that, whatever the result (and given potential boycotts), it’s unlikely the elections will really “settle” the issue. At best, Paul says, a pro-unity vote might delay any call for independence for a while, whereas a vote for separation will open a huge can of worms Europe-wide.

To get a response, we put Paul’s comment to Charles Powell, Director of the Elcano Royal Institute, a think tank in Madrid. What would he say?

I don’t really agree. I think that even if the pro-independence parties win, they have now realised that the unilateral route to secessionism is closed, and they can exercise power but I very much doubt they would press for independence as they have been doing in the past. If the parties in favour of Spanish national unity win, then it will be obviously a much quieter period. I’m basically expecting a stalemate, whatever the result is, without any significant change.

To get another perspective, we also spoke to Rafael Arenas García, a Professor of Private International Law at the Autonomous University of Barcelona and a former leader of the anti-separatist Catalan Civil Society organisation. We asked him if he agrees with Paul:

Next up, we had a comment from Susana, who thinks that the situation after the election will be even worse than it is today. She predicts pro-independence parties will win again, but with a strong showing for pro-unity parties. Meaning, essentially, a divided Catalonia.

Does Charles Powell think the situation has become even more complicated?

I don’t think they will be worse because democratic elections are always a good thing. I think Catalan society is more or less evenly split into two blocs, and whoever wins will win by a very small margin. In fact, the outcome I am predicting right now is almost a repeat of the 2015 election results. In other words a situation in which the pro-independence parties would have more seats, but without a majority of votes, and I don’t think that will significantly change the status quo.

Next, we also put Susana’s comment to Carles Boix I Serra, Professor of Politics and Public Affairs at Princeton University in the USA, and currently leading a research project at the University of Barcelona. What would he say?

The elections will probably not settle the issue. If the pro-independence parties win, they will take back control of Catalan institutions and will try to open a negotiation with Madrid – yet we know that Madrid has already said it will maintain Article 155, which allows it to intervene in the governing of Catalonia. If the unionists win, which I think to be unlikely, the issue will not be settled either. Unionists are divided between a ‘hard’ and a ‘soft’ wing. The latter – mainly the socialist party, is basically supported by very elderly people, so over time they will lose votes. Besides, they won’t be able to deliver on any of the promises they are making now. So it’s going to be hard to settle the issue in the sense of a ‘Spanish victory’.

To answer Susana’s question, well, the thing is that both blocs are divided and they are divided between Left and Right, so yes, there is a possibility – and this complicates things – that there will be a sort of hung parliament, where maybe the pro-independence parties do not have the majority of seats, and clearly it doesn’t look like the pro-unionist parties will have that either. There is a group in the middle, called the “Comuns” (Catalonia in Common) that may hold the key to governing and it’s going to be difficult, if that happens, to have a stable government. We don’t know, but there’s a chance, and we will know more a week from now.

Finally, Mino suggests that the only way to finally resolve this question is to hold a legal referendum like the one in Scotland. What does Charles Powell think?

I don’t agree because basically we would have a “never-endum” rather than a referendum. In other words, whichever party wins – let’s assume the parties in favour of Spanish national unity win – that will not put the issue to rest. Those who advocate independence will continue to want a referendum until they win it.

How would Carles Boix react to the same comment?

If Mino means a referendum agreed by Spain in Catalonia, then yes, I think it is the optimal way to settle the issue, and this what the pro-independent Catalan parties are asking for. In fact, the strategy behind the referendum of October 1st was mostly to force the Spanish government to negotiate because, up to that point, Spain has said ‘no’ to all demands for a referendum, which, by the way, is possible within the constitution.

Notice that the pro-independence block, instead of going all the way to independence, just went for some sort of symbolic declaration of independence, preferring to avoid a full conflict. They really wanted the Spanish government to sit down and negotiate. That strategy didn’t work out. Spain simply took over the Catalan institutions. In any case, yes, a referendum is the best, most democratic solution. But Spain has been rejecting this systematically, so I’m not sure exactly where this leaves us at this point.

And how would Rafael Arenas García respond to Mino’s comment?

Will the Catalan elections settle the independence issue? What will change for Catalonia after the elections? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – La Moncloa – Gobierno de España

82 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. Ivan Burrows

    They tried democracy & when they didn’t like the answer they sent in the attitude correction police. Welcome to freedom of expression, the EU way.

    • Karolina

      No, they didn’t because the referendum was not centrally organised and was not legitimate. There was no proper debate prior to allow people to decide and many didn’t vote because it wasn’t legitimate.

      What Ivan Borishnikov is posting above is the how the Kremlin propaganda machine wants it to be in order to give some legitimacy to its own illegal referendum in Crimea.

    • Philip Cantos

      You have any clue about the matter? I don’t think you did your research right. Democracy doesn’t mean complete freedom to do whatever you want. Laws exists.

    • Ivan Burrows

      Philip Cantos It means listening to the people who elected you, not beating them.

    • Karolina

      The ones that want to remain part of Spain they also voted the same government, theoretically. The gov’ment’s role is to implement Spanish law and not to listen to groups of people selectively…

    • jthk

      Do you mean that democracy has no different from totalitarianism? So, why people using democracy to represent everything good?

  2. Tarquin Farquhar

    No, the Spanish will either fix the elections or the succession will result in Catalunya being an ‘independent state’ WITHIN Spain!

    • Karolina

      Hi Tarquin have you get credible data we can look at that the central gov’ment in Madrid is planning to cheat at the elections?

    • Tarquin Farquhar

      Hi Karoliar, you’re confusing opinion/predictive-insight with fact – your command of English is well, erm, oh – not so commanding!

      I have a right to opine just as you have the right to conjure up facts and present them as real.


      The Spanish constitution is corrupt – it does not allow a region to self-determine.

      The Spanish police are corrupt – in the last vote they beat up and abused Catalunyans.

      The Spanish judiciary are corrupt – they imprisoned people for merely exercising their right to self-determination.

      Spain has a history of corruption – I rest my case.

      QED :)

    • Karolina

      In other words, you have no proof, so you are just commenting on typos and trying to make the most out of it, because belittling other people is what you are here for. Makes you feel better about yourself and your invented accusations…

    • Karolina

      And by the way, expressing yourself against a democratic constitution of a country=you are an enemy of that state and if the law worked properly, you would be arrested.

  3. Karolina

    It depends on the outcome. If the pro-unity parties win, then, yes, the issue will have been settled. However, if the secessionists win, then there will need to be a proper credible referendum. You can’t hold back the tide for ever…

    • Francesc Del Arca Hernàndez

      Did you know Portugal declared indepence from Spain? Hahaha It was because the spanish Army was in Catalunya, once more, opressing us (its the only way the castellanos feel more spanish…). The joke’s on you.

    • Conrad Miranda

      Did you.know that the company Inc charge of vote counting “Indra”. Has been linked un corruption cases with the goberment party un Spain ?

    • Eduardo Tomé

      Francesc Del Arca Hernàndez well you have since 1640, so 377 years to reverse the situation nnd to deal with the Spanish army, And you only maneged a referendum that was a joke.

    • Francisco Caleira

      Funny thing. Catalonian independentists have shortage of memory. They suddenly forgot Jordi Pujol and family. Artur Más also convicted. All CiU and PDeCAT are a nice example of very democratic people. At least Europe have something to laugh about. Only irrational people point fingers to PP before looking to the mirror and see who appointed the Puigdemont clown is as bad as who they criticise. Dumb people…

  4. Christine Harris

    Upcoming elections will be democratic, free and fair. The result will reflect the will of the electorate

    • Sami Sami

      democratic and fair?
      and those in prison and exile who can not even campaign?

    • Pilar Riesco

      Sami Sami actually they will get more votes because they are in prison. Puigdemont is on holidays, no exhile

    • Русский Шпион

      La compañia encargada de contar los votos se llama Indra, imputada por financiar ilegalmente al partido popular, intervenir en los resultados electorales de diferentes paises y por múltiples irregularidades desde que se encarga de el recuento de votos. En las elecciones generales pasadas se detectaron votantes que hacia mucho tiempo que ya estaban fallecidos, las residencias de ancianos religiosas llegaron a entregar los sobres cerrados y llevar masivamente ancianos que no sabian que tenia el sobre. Los censos no cuadraban y asi un monton de irregularidades las cuales son de conocimiento de todos. Intentar maquillar estas o cualquier otras elecciones en españa solo puede significar dos cosas. Una. Desconocimiento anormal del país donde Vives. Dos… Intento fracasado de intervenir en la opinion de lectores de los cuales es mejor que no sepas lo que piensan de tu absurdo comentario…

    • Clare Carline

      How will it be free and fair when the contrct to run the elections wasn’t even put out to tender, then given to a company being investigated for illegally tansferering funds the the ruling P P party?

  5. joan

    We demand her immediate freedom that of all the political prisoners catalan in the spanish jails.
    Visca la llibertat i la democràcia!

    • Susana

      Tehere is no political prisioners are they are not in prison for hteir ideas, (note that other independentist are not inprison). They are in provisionary prison because of their crimes. Do not manipulate truth

  6. Русский Шпион

    La compañia encargada de contar los votos se llama Indra, imputada por financiar ilegalmente al partido popular, intervenir en los resultados electorales de diferentes paises y por múltiples irregularidades desde que se encarga de el recuento de votos. En las elecciones generales pasadas se detectaron votantes que hacia mucho tiempo que ya estaban fallecidos, las residencias de ancianos religiosas llegaron a entregar los sobres cerrados y llevar masivamente ancianos que no sabian que tenia el sobre. Los censos no cuadraban y asi un monton de irregularidades las cuales son de conocimiento de todos. Intentar maquillar estas o cualquier otras elecciones en españa solo puede significar dos cosas. Una. Desconocimiento anormal del país donde Vives. Dos… Intento fracasado de intervenir en la opinion de lectores de los cuales es mejor que no sepas lo que piensan de tu absurdo comentario…

  7. Anna Domenech Rifa

    The company in charge of counting the votes is a corrupted and pro-PP one. I won’te believe the results

    • Francisco Caleira

      No problem it’s a development from the 1-O, where people voted multiple times and Amazon included some extra votes in the polls boxes. LOL. At least people around Europe are having a laugh…

  8. Olga C-K

    Brexit is a proven mess. Catalun-exit would be an even bigger one. Only big countries can have a significant role in the world scene. Catalanists are so fanatic that they ignore law and talk about freedom although they live in a democracy; they invoque fake news when they don’t have valid arguments; they turn against EU for not supporting them, although they claim they want to be part of it. Like spoiled children they accept only what suits them. Pathetic!

  9. Sam

    The separatist movement in Catalonia has a long history stretching back more than 100 years in its modern phase. Put simply, Catalonia feels that it is different from Spain and should have control over its own affairs, the PP Spanish feel that Catalonia shouldn’t be different, and should be run on centralist Spanish lines. The election won’t change these underlying sentiments, so tension will remain whatever the election outcome. 155 has created a situation where the party with just 8% of the local vote is running the region and those who were elected to run Catalonia are now in prison.

    The only hope is that the election becomes the start of a proper constitutional debate and reform which could then ease the situation in the long term. Currently PP will not let that happen leaving no other outlets for Catalan frustration other than towards the independentists. Without movement from PP this current vote is a harsh choice between PP’s Spain or Catalan separatists with practically no middle ground, as neither PSC/PSOE or Cs seem to have any inclination to force PP to give ground, and the separatists have no political power to make the changes they want.

  10. Pineda Bp

    Let’s not forget that these elections were imposed by the spanish government. The campain has not been fair, with the president in exile and 3 candidates in prison, and we will see if the spanish government interferes in the counting of the votes. So far we have seen some problems with most of the international community not receiving their vote in time.
    Having said that, these elections are not going to solve anything, they are not a referendum and until the Spanish government doesnt want to dialogue and keeps on repressing the catalans, no solution will be met.

    • JM Comba

      Well if you break the law that’s what you get, kiddo. It’s called state of law; you should check it; it may give you some valuable information. Obviously this is not going to settle anything. It is difficult to try to get along with supremacists, xenophobic biggots who are driven by hatred. Perhaps that is why your best friends are vlaams belang; a far right wing party. Anyway is your choice to decide to be leadered by mr. Puigdemont who has as much of a democrat as he has of courage. Funny to see him flee the country and act as he were the promised leader. He was meant to guide you to the promised land yet it was only him who went somewhere else; to Brussels. Nobody can take this man too seriously especially when other independentist leaders have at least had the guts to face their deeds.

    • Pineda Bp

      Thanks for answering JMComba, your lack of respect toward other opinions illustrates what I was talking about ;)

    • Conrad Miranda

      JM Comba , the was a state of law to when Franco was Alive . That’s what you people dont undarstant , when there is conflict between law And democracy , democracy ALWAYS takes preference , hence its the Will of the people . Laws are not the Will of the people , laws ( speatially in Spain ) are made by corrupte people with there on selfish interest in mind

    • Pedro Castro

      Conrad Miranda, democracy says there’s not a majority for independance. That should cover it.

    • Pineda Bp

      But Pedro Castro it says there is a 47.5% of people in favor of independence, I think that even though it doesnt reach 50% it means that a huge amount of the society is in its favor and therefore Spain should listen to the population and at LEAST talk about it instead of repressing the independentists and jailing their leaders

    • Jokera Jokerov

      JM Comba, “supremacists, xenophobic biggots who are driven by hatred.”, is that you, because it looks like you!

  11. Imir Vlad

    1. separatist parties represents will of less than 50% population
    2. separatist parties received less votes in 2015 than non-separatist parties (because of Catalan voting system, they had close majority in parliament)
    3. separatist parties received in referendum again less than 50% participation in referendum. Referendum itself was totally uncontrolled (in the end of chaos, people were able to print their voting papers themselves and throw them to urn in any place they wish, even on street)
    4. despite of everything mentioned in first 3 points, separatists parties representing minority of population (significant 40+% minority, but still minority), declared independence unilaterally, just showing how they do not care about others which do not share their point of view (in my point of view, they are just intolerant as any other nationalists in the world – nothing new here, nationalism is everywhere the same, from 19th century to now on)
    5. I also think that these election will not solve anything, but Spanish government has full right to protect country (Spain, but also Catalonia itself) against intolerant minority. I really doubt, that Spanish government will change its stance, if separatists will still represent less than 50% of Catalan population.
    6. Spanish government is just putting borders to minority which thinks, that they can do anything.. against Spanish law, against Catalan law, against constitution and against other people in Catalonia. Spanish government will just continue putting these borders. This game can continue even for years, either until separatists understand that there are also others, not just themselves, or until separatists gain overall decisive majority which will force Spanish government to reflect that.

    • JM Comba

      I absolutely agree with you.

    • Conrad Miranda

      If its all so clear And simple as you say . Why the hell dont you let US have a referéndum And we finally have a propper answer ???

    • Mònica Gonyalons

      Someone from Slovakia, living in Alicante, knows a lot about Catalonia 👍😂😂

    • Mònica Gonyalons

      Conrad Miranda, bc they know we will win, thats it! And they will lie, and pay money to everybody to talk against Catalan Independentism!! Margallo, made a tour all around Europe and the World. And now he owns to many favours!!

    • Júlia Riot

      How can you still argue that secessionism is minoritary when you need a majority in the Parliament to be able to form a government?

    • Imir Vlad

      I meant minority in votes.. not representing more than 50% of population.. in my point of view (which is anyway invalid because I am Slovak, as Monica stated above), to do such “small” thing as creating a new state and changing borders in Europe and even more doing it unilaterally, it is really bad to do it with representing less than 50% of population.. there is no wonder that there is resistance to such acting..

    • Pavur Pezev

      Imir Vlad, and why Slovakia separated from Chekhoslovakia?

    • Catalin Campeanu

      I’m sure that russian propaganda is pretty efficient. Just reading some comments around here. This is exactly what they want, a divided Europe, made by tens of tiny impotent states like catalonia would be.

    • Imir Vlad

      Pavur : Eslovaquia not separated from Checoslovaquia.. There was no referendum and there was no unilateral way.. Majority of Checos and Eslovacos were against separation (my family included, I was only child back then) and decision was taken mutually by Czech and Slovak politicians in federal parliament without asking people for opinion. And yes, most shitty politicians back then, were nationalist ones, which used same hate narrative like now many indepe Catalans, showed same closed minds, and were ignoring or insulting other Slovaks which were not thinking the same way.

  12. Catalin

    When we should all try to be more united than ever, facing all those economic and political challenges we listen to all traitors payed by Moscow. I wonder, wtf all those separatists believe? That they will live hapily ever after as in Catalonia? Retards!

  13. Montse Rat M. Escrig

    In my opinion, whatever happens with the elections today, the problem will not be solved at all. Only a referendum could help

    • Stoil Zlatarov

      Yeah, kinda funny how European leftists are scared of the “fascist” conservatives that aren’t even in power, while the real fascists are in the European parliament and the governing parties of the dominant EU countries.

    • Sabin Popescu

      Stoil Zlatarov you might have to read again what fascism really means

  14. Jokera Jokerov

    Is Spain a direct democracy like switzerland or a representative democracy like the rest of the EU? Is Catalunya a representative democracy? Then it is for the Parliament to decide and for the people to approve. The majority in Parliament in Barcelona is for independence. They should vote it and there should be a referendum of dis/aproval.


    After days of ill-tempered rhetoric, the central government said it regretted last Sunday s injuries and suggested Catalonia should hold a regional election to settle the crisis.


    Given Catalonia is not a colony, post-Franco Spain has not committed gross human rights violations in the region, and Catalonia enjoys political inclusion at every level of government in Spain, it fails to meet the three circumstances of International Law which could have given them independence.

  17. jthk

    It appears that Spain can only settle the Catalonia independence issue by giving up democratic election everywhere! Do the Spanish or Catalonia people prefer settling this way? If not, stop tearing the country apart.

    • jthk

      democracy needs to play according to law, particularly the supreme law, according to which, a country is built, Constitution. If people do not respect even their constitution, the country either does disintegrate or there will be war to protect the country being disintegrated. Territorial sovereignty cannot be compromised. According to the principle of democracy, Catalonia’s independence needs a referendum of the whole Spain, which is all Spanish people, not just the Catalonia region. If Catalonia’s illegal referendum can ever be justified, all local ethnic groups of the Catalonia region can also use a referendum to get independence from Catalonia.

  18. eusebio manuel vestias vestias

    The end of the Independence of Catalonia and the end of the subsidies that are attributed to you

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