Politics 06/02/2021

The battle in the metropolitan area of Barcelona will determine the results of the elections

The PSC seeks to consolidate all the ground gained to Ciudadanos while ERC aims to continue growing

4 min
An election poster by Salvador Illa with the slogan "Let's do it" on a billboard in the metropolitan town of Cornellà de Llobregat.

BarcelonaThe Barcelona metropolitan area is the main source of votes in elections and, therefore, one of the territories most coveted by the parties. In the last parliamentary elections, the parties with representation shared 1.8 million votes: whoever wins in this area has a good chance of winning in Catalonia as a whole. In the first 30 years since the restoration of democracy, the PSC reigned with an iron fist, but in the last decade it has become a much more unpredictable territory. In 10 years up to five different political colours have won: CiU, the PSC, the comunes, ERC and Cs. In the run-up to 14-F, the socialists can be expected to recover much of the ground that Cs took three years ago, but Esquerra has long been knocking on the door to dispute this territory. The battle is on.

Looking back, the first surprising result came in 2014 when, in a European election in the run-up to the 9-N referendum, ERC won against all odds. But this would not be the only change of trend. In the cycle of the 2015 and 2016 general elections, the Comunes won with their proposal for an agreed referendum, while in 2017 Cs burst on the scene with figures that were reminiscent of those of the PSC in its best days. Their dominance, however, has been short-lived and, in recent times and with the Pedro Sánchez effect, the socialists have regained the upper hand.

The first thing to be clear about is that the PSC and Cs have become communicating vessels in this area. Of the 1,100,000 votes that gave Cs victory at the polls in 2017, almost half came from the metropolitan area: 520,973. However, like a domino effect, Cs has been suffering shake-ups since Pedro Sánchez's vote of no confidence of Mariano Rajoy, which caught the party off guard. At the same time, the PSOE's arrival at the Moncloa inflamed Catalan socialists. Since then, the correlation of forces between the two parties has been reversed.

Illa against Ciudadanos

The struggle of the PSC candidate, Salvador Illa, to maintain and increase votes in what had previously been an impregnable socialist fiefdom has been noticeable in the campaign. He has constantly addressed the electorate that three years ago placed its trust in Cs, calling for a "reunion" between pro-independence and non-independence supporters - for example, a non-independence supporter "who lives in Hospitalet or Santa Coloma de Gramenet", he said in an interview with ARA. "We have to say enough is enough, turn the page, Catalonia must return to dialogue, to welcome, to rediscover what it was and has never ceased to be", he advised yesterday - switching to Spanish for a moment - at an event: "The only vote for change is the vote for the PSC". The calls for a unionist vote also came in the form of a condemnation towards Ciudadanos. "Ciudadanos had an opportunity in the last legislature and fled, but I'm coming back", Illa said in the first debate between candidates in La Vanguardia, in a criticism of Inés Arrimadas for having left Catalonia after winning the elections.

The order of Junqueras

And the third player in the race is Esquerra. If they had been told 10 years ago what their electoral expectations would be right now in this part of the country, few would have believed it. From the 70,000 votes it won in the 2010 Catalan elections to more than 350,000 in the 2017 elections. Growing and growing again in this area has been one of the obsessions of Oriol Junqueras, who has always set himself as an example: if he had been able to become mayor of the metropolitan municipality of Sant Vicenç dels Horts, the party had to be able to be decisive in the area one day.

"Oriol opened the way in Sant Vicenç. Since then, our growth has been slow but persistent", the Republican Party's leadership analyses. And in this campaign the metropolitan area has once again become one of the priorities, a decision that is more "strategic than tactical". In other words, it has been thought out not only in terms of immediate performance, but also with a 'long view' on the next electoral cycle. ERC has already held rallies in Badalona and Hospitalet with an obvious objective: to charge once and again against the PSC in an attempt to capture those voters who are tired of the socialists' "eternal majorities". Junqueras himself launched one of the most direct attacks on the socialists in Hospitalet, taking advantage of their mayor's problems with the justice system: "This city has been experiencing an epidemic for many years, the epidemic of corruption".

The rest of the parties that will sit in Parliament may not have as much chance of winning in the metropolitan area, but they all have some reason to dream of a good result. For example, JxCat beat all its records in the area in the last European elections, with Carles Puigdemont as candidate, and if it manages to come close and have a good result in the rest of the country, its chances of victory would be reinforced. The comunes can also appeal to the old days when, with Xavier Domènech as candidate, they watched the socialists through the rear-view mirror. Even the PP and the CUP have had good experiences in the not too distant past, despite the fact that in recent elections they have accumulated mostly disappointments. Those who want to sleep well on the night of 14 February know that they have to cultivate the metropolitan area. There are many votes at stake that have long since ceased to be predictable.