barcelona - The Catalans can choose a new regional parliament of 135 seats on Thursday. It is already the fourth election in seven years time, but according to opinion pollers, the turnout seems to be going back by more than two years at around 80 percent. Then three-quarters of the voters came up. There is also a lot at stake in the shredded region, where fanatical separatists and pragmatic forces confront each other. The latter fear that independence turns out to be a disaster for the relatively prosperous Catalonia.
The regional government organized by Madrid in October consisted of separatists. They caused a political dichotomy in Catalonia, harmed the economy and put Spain in a constitutional crisis. Their attempt to declare the independent republic by means of an illegal referendum was a failure. The Spanish government suspended the autonomy of the region.
Former Prime Minister of Catalonia Carles Puigdemont (54) is now being sought by justice and has fled to Belgium where he is campaigning. Another important separatist leader, ex-deputy prime minister Oriol Junqueras (48), is in prison and accused of rebellion, mutiny, conspiracy and embezzlement (of government money), just like other separatist leaders. He leads the ERC (Republican Left in Catalonia) which is the largest separatist party.
Madrid hopes that the ballot box will relax Catalonia and the whole of Spain on Thursday. Recent opinion polls show that the opponents of independence in parliament do achieve a majority at the expense of the separatists. But the difference between the two internally divided camps would only become a few seats. That would make the formation of a stable government in Catalonia very difficult.
The most important parties that profit from the political chaos appear to be the right-wing Liberal party Ciudadanos (Burgers) and the socialist PSC. Both are against independence. The young party Ciudadanos, led by Inés Arrimadas García (36), comes from Barcelona and calls himself post-nationalist. Arrimadas, according to opinion pollers, will soon be able to introduce the largest party in Catalonia. Her message that the Catalans now have to stop whining about independence and to focus on everyday problems speaks.
The socialist Miguel Iceta (57) of the PSC can also count on winning. But the separatists seem to be able to count on a considerable part of the votes despite their failed adventure.