29 November 2012

Catalan politics

Last Sunday Catalonia had elections and they were a BIG DEAL. Voter participated spiked by 10% here.

One way elections are different in Spain than in the US is that voters elect the party, rather than the politician, to govern. Then the leaders of the elected party assume whatever political posts were up for election.

In Spain elections usually have 5 or 6 parties that win seats in congress. The two largest parties in the country as a whole are the PP (popular party, conservative), and the PSOE (workers' party, socialist). But Catalonia has it's own right and left.

Catalonia, while part of the Spanish state, has autonomy that allows it to do things differently when it wants to. Especially regarding education, and speaking Catalan (which was suppressed during the Franco years ... the 40s to the 70s). There has always been nationalist sentiment in Catalonia, but it is running especially high right now. People are talking about independence from Spain.

This dude is the current president. He is from the CiU, the Catalan right. Traditionally this party has not favored independence from Spain, but responding to popular opinion, now it does. (Sorry the photos are so bad ... they are of campaign posters in the metro, hence the black eye). The current president called early elections and promised that if he got more than 50% of the total votes he would arrange a referendum to vote on Catalonian independence from Spain.

But he didn't get more than 50% of the votes. In fact, his party got fewer votes than in previous years. The party that did gain votes was the leftist Catalan Party, the Esquerra. This party is all for a radical, total break with Spain.

The Esquerra candidate. 
Together, the two parties do have an absolute majority, and both favor Catalan independence, but the problem is that they will have a hard time forming a coalition government together to push that agenda through because one is conservative and the other is liberal.

So, basically, Catalans have voted for independence, but didn't decide which party would do a better job of it. 

No matter how crazy Catalan politics are, what didn't seem crazy was that campaign propaganda only appeared two weeks before election day. People didn't have to live with the ads for months. That's definitely something we could adopt in the US!

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