Spain is eagerly awaiting the results of the Catalan elections

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Catalan elections

Today, Catalans will cast their votes in the autonomous parliamentary elections in Catalonia. All of Spain is eagerly awaiting the results. The result could have far-reaching consequences for Prime Minister Sánchez’s government. Carles Puigdemont, who fled abroad a few years ago, is already dreaming of a return.

The chance of this has decreased due to a less strongly represented independence movement. It is a striking image in the Catalan election campaign: buses with the portrait of Carles Puigdemont drive to the French Pyrenees village of Argelès-sur-Mer. Because the separatist leader is still threatened with arrest in Spain, he brings his supporters to his place of exile in France. His fans are convinced that Puigdemont is the only one who can achieve independence for Catalonia.

A dream of return

The 61-year-old Puigdemont gives many passionate campaign speeches in which he emphasises how they wanted to jail him as regional president. By this he refers to the government in Madrid. But now here he is, among his supporters, shortly before his return – “without having to apologise to a Spanish judge.” The former regional president fled to Belgium in 2017 after holding a controversial and illegal referendum on the future of the region and declaring Catalonia’s independence.

Record number of voters for the Catalan elections

A record number of 5.75 million Catalans who are eligible to vote can go to 2,695 polling stations today. Of the total number of voters, the vast majority are in the Barcelona constituency: 4,278,966. There are 603,684 eligible voters in Tarragona, 553,337 in Girona and 318,853 in Lleida. Nearly 300,000 people can vote from abroad.

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Declining support for independence

Polls see Puigdemont’s Junts per Catalunya party as the second strongest force. Although the issue of independence is still important to many Catalans, it is no longer a priority. The number of supporters of a separate Catalan state has been declining for years. Many Catalans seem tired of the debates and certainly do not want to return to the crisis years around 2017.

The Socialists in the lead – but possibly without a majority

In Sunday’s elections, all pollsters see the Socialists as the strongest force. Their top candidate Salvador Illa recently presented himself as non-ideological and pragmatic. He promises again and again that he wants to lead Catalonia into a new era. However, whether he gets that chance depends on whether one of the separatist parties wants to form a coalition with the Socialists.

The Sánchez problem

The coalition question plays a major role in election debates and interviews. This question is also very relevant for Spain’s Prime Minister Sánchez. After the parliamentary elections in the summer of 2023, his left-wing alliance lacked a majority. Sánchez’s minority cabinet is now dependent on the support of separatist parties. Depending on the outcome of the elections, they could also withdraw their support for Sánchez. Without them, the current Spanish government can no longer pass laws. Puigdemont has already indicated that if he loses the elections, he will withdraw as a presidential candidate.

Train disruption due to copper theft

This morning, no commuter train could reach Barcelona due to major disruption to the Rodalies service. High-speed trains operate normally. According to Spanish media, the disruption was caused by the theft of copper cables. Catalan Vice President Laura Vilagrà said the disruptions were affecting voting rights and turnout. The situation is “unacceptable,” she said, calling on Spain’s Transport Minister Óscar Puente to take immediate action. In voting, Catalan President Pere Aragonès also said damage to the commuter train network could affect voting rights, adding that the problems arise after years of “lack of public spending” serving the Spanish government.

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