Politics 14/02/2021

Turnout on 14-F plummets to 53.4%, the lowest in Catalan democratic history

79.09% of the electorate participated in the last elections, in 2017

3 min

From 79.09% in 2017 to 53.4% on 14-F. The thirteenth elections to the Catalan Parliament, marked by the pandemic and postal voting, ended with the highest number of abstentions in Catalan democratic history, with 96% of the votes counted. Turnout has plummeted 25 points compared to the last elections, when a record figure was reached. The 14-F has fallen short of equalling the average Catalan turnout, which, excluding the extraordinary data recorded in the Catalan independence bid elections in 2015 and 2017, is 60.8%. Until now, the lowest figure had been recorded in 1992, with 54.87% of the electorate, in elections won by CiU with an absolute majority.

The Minister for External Action, Institutional Relations and Citizen Participation, Bernat Solé, attributed the fall in turnout to the health emergency caused by covid, which has also led to the worst turnout figures of the last two decades in other parts of Spain, such as Galicia (with 49% of voters) and the Basque Country (50.8%). "It is clear that the pandemic celebration has led to this drop in turnout", he said. The Minister, however, publicly thanked the thousands of people who made the elections possible and the exemplary behaviour of the citizens throughout the day. "Beyond the election results, Catalan citizens have won", he said, and insisted that comparisons cannot be made with the 2017 elections, given the exceptional nature of the results of these elections.

The Girona region, with 47.04%, had the highest turnout of the four Catalan regions at 6 p.m., although 21.12% fewer voters turned out than in the last elections. Lleida follows closely, with 46.16%, and a 20.49% drop in turnout compared to 2017. In Barcelona, 45.93% (-22.65%) of those called to the polls had voted, while Tarragona 42.84% (-24%) had the lowest turnout.

Drop in turnout at 6 pm

According to Solé, the sharp drop in turnout has several explanations, all related to the pandemic. The first, he said, is the increase in postal voting, which has risen by 350% compared to the last elections in December 2017. The postal vote will not be counted until the polling stations close at 8pm.

Apart from this, the Government has recommended that the people most vulnerable to covid-19 (the elderly or chronically ill, among other groups) should go to vote between 9am and 12 noon. The minister said that this meant that in the early hours of the morning there were fewer people called to vote if the recommendations were followed. Solé considers the 22% turnout to be "comparable" to that of other elections held elsewhere since the outbreak of the pandemic.

It should also be borne in mind that this year's elections will take place on a Sunday, as usual, while the 2017 elections were held on a Thursday, as they were called by the Spanish government following the application of Article 155 of the Constitution. On that occasion, they were the elections to Parliament with the highest turnout in history.

Solé assured that the protection measures in the polling stations guarantee voters "security", but despite this he has asked voters who go to the polls to act "responsibly" and maintain basic hygiene and sanitary measures. He also called on people to take their vote prepared from home to minimise the time spent voting.

Incidents

Throughout the morning there were incidents that delayed the opening of polling stations throughout the country. However, Solé was pleased that it was finally possible to set up all of them, thus avoiding the need to reopen polling stations 48 hours later (i.e. next Tuesday), as required by the regulations in the event that a polling station cannot be set up.

The Zone Electoral Boards have been informed of the incidents in the configuration of the polling stations, including cases in which voting has begun at polling stations where one of the three members of the polling station was missing, in violation of the regulations, which require a president and two members of the polling station before accepting the votes of the voters. According to Solé, the various polling stations are aware of these incidents, but have authorised the opening of 100% of the polling stations.

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