Three Views On Catalan Elections

by xabier

There would be by now plenty analysis about the Catalan elections, and how their results will affect Catalan, Spanish and even European politics in the months to come. I am not a political analyst, and I would afford you such job of underlining the impressive victory of CiU or claiming for the public beheading of Montilla and Puigcercós, leaders of defeated PSC and ERC. I only would like to comment three marginal aspects of the results: the posibilities for a change in seats’ distribution; the unfairness of that distribution; and eventually the most striking implication of this electoral night: the remarkable performance of a new far-right party.

The Musical Seats

The seats’ distribution is far from definitive. In Barcelona constituency, last seats were allocated by a very narrow margin. And there are still some votes to come from Catalans living in foreign countries. There are probably some people who know exactly how many votes have been received already, but it is not public yet (have I said before that we need more transparency?). Based in previous elections, an amount of 20,595 votes can be expected in this election for the constituency of Barcelona. The last seat to be allocated was to Solidaritat, the pro-independence party of the former Barça’s president Joan Laporta. This party has two problems: the first one is that it obtained only a 3.095% of votes, i.e., only 0.095% above the threshold required for obtaining any seat. In other words, if Solidaritat goes below that 3%, it would keep its only Girona’s seat. However, that option is quite unlikely: 74,851 new ballots are needed, all of them have to be valid (blank votes are valid for the record), and any of them has to be for Solidaritat. Since votation in foreign countries will be not trebled for 2010, let’s examine the allocation.

There are only two parties that can take the Solidaritat last seat: CiU and PSC. For the Socialists, that would be an excessive challenge. They have to receive 54% of the total ballots from foreign countries and that Solidaritat did not receive anyone. Hard to believe, particularly considering that this amount would represent almost double the number of votes received in 2006. For the right-of-the-centre, nationalistic CiU, the task would not be easy either. It needs 6,912 votes if Solidaritat gets none, plus 36 votes more for every vote received by Solidaritat. In other words, if Solidaritat manages to get only 60 votes, CiU would need 9,000 votes for Barcelona constituency, when in 2006 it got 6,815 for the whole Catalonia.

A Woman, A Vote

Those below are four different simulations. The first one is the real Catalan one: D’Hont + constituencies of different size. The second one keeps the D’Hont distribution, but removes constituencies. The third one is totally proportional. The fourth one is totally proportional, but four seats would be left empty due to the percentage of blank vote. This last system is a wee tricky: while ackowledge the wish of a large amount of citizens for not choosing any MCP, makes more simple for the largest parties to hold a control majority. At the same time there are four whole salaries afforded (for four years, plus assistants, travel expenses, drivers and so on). The final column shows the beneficiaries of that institutionalized cheating.

Parliament simulation

Josep Anglada Leading the Workers

Regardless my own opinion on wether bail-out is a good solution, I have to confess that, when I listen to that kind of luddite sentences such as “the financial crisis must be paid by its creators” (meaning the banks), my head spin as fast as the head of the exorcist’s girl. Yet it is now a common-lieu among my left-wing friends, my family, and also among left-wing media and the left-wing thought ruling in Western countries. France is blocked by protesters against the two-years increase in the retirement age (while the streets were silent after racist gipsy deportations). Greece, Ireland and Portugal were in flame, and listening to some Spanish media, it looks like the Third Republic is now close and the plane ready for Juan Carlos I.

However, when those revolutionary populations come to the poll station, their opinion is quite surprising. On the one hand, they usually choose right-wing parties (Conservatives or Liberals), deserting not only of the ruling Labour / Socialdemocratic parties, but also of those alternative parties in the marginal left promising new paradises to the left of Marx and claiming to dot the i’s and cross the t’s. On the other hand, those masses of impoverished industrial proletariat, that have lived during the last decades mostly on benefits or public subsidies generously given by Labour parties, and that are now suffering the crisis at its best, are turning their votes to far-right parties. How is that possible?

The Plataforma per Catalunya, leaded by the xenophobic Josep Anglada, failed to reach that 3% threshold mostly due to their poor results in Barcelona city. Only in two districts, Ciutat Vella and Nou Barris, they went over the 2%. Are these the classic right-wing, wealthy districts of Barcelona? Quite the opposite, if I have to say it. Let’s consider now an exemplar red, industrial city, such as L’Hospitalet, where this racist party got more than 4% of votes. The left-wing parties have lost about 14,000 votes in this city, while CiU and PP won about 8,000. Missing something? Aye, 4,000 votes have been received by PxC. Rather similar proportions can be described for most of the red belt of Barcelona (Badalona, Cornellá…), but also these areas mimic the same pattern of votes’ movement between British Labour and BNP in past European elections.

Luckily enough, PxC failed to overcome the threshold and they will not seat in Parliament. It is worthy to remind that no far-right parties have been in any Parliament in Spain since 1982.  However, the problem of a racist feeling in Spain with political expresion will not disappear just because media (and mostly public media) remove their name of TV graphics. The first provisional results of the electoral night gave up to 3 seats to PxC, and that fact was hidden for almost 90 minutes by TVE presentors, who jumped the table from Ciutadans to Solidaritat not mentioning the Anglada’s party. As loud as I shout against racism, I will shout against deliberated censorship in public media. Far-right can be defeated with truth: with simplistic slogans and half-hidden realities the journey to PxC and similars is short for leftist workers.