Who benefits from new elections?
Analysis of the risks and opportunities for parties ten days before the re-run election
When the pro-independence movement surpassed 50% of the votes and obtained a comfortable absolute majority, few believed that unblocking the investiture would be so complicated. But the misgivings between JxCat and ERC came from long before 14-F and they have not managed to overcome them with ten days to go before the deadline for repeat elections. Elections that would lengthen the interim situation and would show the failure of politicians, but also represent an opportunity for the parties.
✅The PSC is probably the party with the best prospects if there are new elections. Not only because of its victory on 14 February, but also because, in the face of a failure of the ERC-JxCat negotiations, it can establish itself with more arguments as the alternative to a pro-independence government. The socialists believe that returning to the polls under these conditions could benefit them, and they do not rule out the possibility that disenchantment with their hitherto partners in the Generalitat -and the possible abstention that may result from it on the pro-sovereignty flank-, the even more pronounced decline of Cs and the rapprochement of the Comuns with ERC will allow them to go beyond the current 33 MPs, which is more than double the number they obtained in 2017. A progressive tripartite that breaks with the logic of the independence bid, moreover, appears in the latest CIS barometer as the preferred option of Catalans and, at the national level, a good role for the PSC could also give the PSOE some breathing space after the poor results in Madrid.
❌The great asset of the previous campaign, the Illa effect, has lost strength without the socialist candidate having had the opportunity to deploy his government programme in Parliament. The transfer of votes from Cs could have reached its peak, and the votes at stake on the constitutionalist flank could go to the PP or to Vox. The party also fears that the foreseeable abstention rate and the fact that the elections will be held during the holiday period will end up affecting it. It is also clear that, even if it wins the elections, the correlation of forces - and therefore the chances of governing - could be very similar to the current one.
✅ If there is a repeat election, ERC is confident that the public will hold JxCat responsible for the way the investiture negotiations have developed and, therefore, that Puigdemont's party will assume a higher cost at the ballot box. If this prediction were to come true, Esquerra would have the opportunity to gain a few more seats over Junts -they are now 33 to 32- and reinforce the leadership it assumed on 14 February, when it was the most voted pro-independence force in Parliament for the first time since the outbreak of the independence bid. Moreover, with the pandemic in retreat and vaccination at full pace, it could claim more strongly than three months ago the management that has made from some key ministries of the Generalitat in the fight against covid, such as the Health Department.
❌On the election night of 14 February, ERC saw itself with the presidency of the Generalitat within touching distance, a goal that not even ten years ago seemed unattainable. A return to the polls would jeopardise the party's most important electoral result since 1932. To begin with, the Republicans fear that the PSC could extend their lead - on 14 February they tied on seats - and consolidate the socialists' upward electoral cycle for future contests such as the general elections or the municipal elections. There is also a spectre that could haunt the Republican election campaign: what if JxCat manages to beat the odds and pull off a comeback, as in the 2017 Catalan elections? Moreover, Esquerra could not forget the CUP, which is on the rise and has always had a disputed border vote.
✅Junts per Catalunya lost the leadership of independentism and the presidency of the Generalitat on the night of 14 February by one MP and some 35,000 votes to Esquerra. On that day, many leaders of Junts per Catalunya thought about the divorce they had just had with PDECat, with whom they had a border of voters at the polls. Àngels Chacón was left out of the Parliament with 77,000 votes, some of which, according to Junts, could have opted for Laura Borràs and offered her the presidency of the Generalitat. With a new appointment in the polls they could try to recover these voters appealing to the useful vote and to the fact that the Partit Demòcrata has already been out of the chamber once. Unlike on 14 February, they would now have electoral rights and guaranteed space in the media.
❌As a result of the wear and tear of the negotiation with Esquerra and the fact that it abstained twice in the first investiture debate of Pere Aragonès, JxCat risks being one of the culprits of the electoral repetition. It would also have a problem in defining subsequent alliances: Carles Puigdemont's party only has two possible allies, which are ERC and the CUP. And, in terms of forming a government, only Esquerra. Unlike the republicans, it has no options for a pact with the Comuns and, on a national scale, has also excluded the PSC. This means that it would face the difficulty of explaining the disagreement with Esquerra after having achieved more than 50% of the votes and with the need to agree with the republicans also after the elections.
✅Vox has boasted about its electoral result to the point of turning it into a hashtag: #Los11deVox. The far-right party made a splash on 14 February, becoming the fourth largest force in Parliament, but it is not satisfied and, in the event of a repeat election, will aspire to continue to grow. Possibly at the expense of Cs and the PP, although Ignacio Garriga's party has also made the PSC a rival.
❌It is still too early to tell if Vox will be able to consolidate this space or if Cs and the PP -benefited by the victory of Isabel Díaz Ayuso- can still eat ground.
✅Of the three pro-independence parties, the CUP is the one that could benefit the most from a repeat election. The divergences between ERC and JxCat when it comes to reaching an agreement place the anti-capitalist formation in a privileged position to try to channel the discomfort of the bases with the two major pro-independence forces. Unlike in previous legislatures, the Cupaires quickly signed an agreement for the investiture with the Republicans that has served to counteract those who always accuse them of putting sticks in the wheels. Their role as mediators, favouring Wednesday's summit, reinforces this sense of responsibility that they will try to capitalise on at the ballot box if the elections are repeated.
❌The main danger facing the CUP is that a new election could place JxCat ahead of ERC and leave the pact reached with the Republicans in vain, especially in the social sphere, on which the assembly party has focused all its efforts to try to alleviate the effects of the crisis resulting from the pandemic. Carles Puigdemont's party has not hidden its misgivings about some of the points of the agreement, and if it comes first it will have more strength when it comes to renegotiating downwards the demands of the anti-capitalists.
✅Since 14-F, the Comuns have remained faithful to their commitment to a left-wing government, despite the few chances it has had so far to prosper. This would continue to be their bet if Catalonia were to finally repeat the elections. But for it to succeed, Jéssica Albiach's candidacy would need to be decisive. This could happen if JxCat were to lose weight and the Comuns were to have the capacity to offer themselves as a left-wing alternative to ERC. En comú Podem could also take advantage of this to try to capitalise on the disappointment of pro-independence voters tired of the fratricidal struggles between ERC and JxCat.
❌The main challenge facing the Lilacs would be the likely rise of the PSC. The so-called Illa effect had already threatened the party's results on 14 February. In the end, they managed to hold on to the eight seats they already had, despite losing votes in a large part of the metropolitan area. They could be penalised if the more federalist voters in the confluence space respond to the calls for a useful vote from the socialists to become the alternative to independence. If this were the case, the Comuns would become one of the main victims of an electoral repetition that could give them a marginal role in Parliament.
✅Pessimism reigns in Ciudadanos. But even so, there are still some voices that see a repeat election as an opportunity to improve results. How? Thanks to a better electoral campaign, with more face-to-face events, and by mobilising the vote of many constitutionalists who stayed at home on 14 February - with a turnout of 51.3 per cent. Carlos Carrizosa's list believes that it could also benefit from a fading - albeit partial - of the Illa effect.
❌The risk of disappearing from Parliament is real. The defeat in the Catalan elections -Cs lost thirty MPs- was followed by the fiasco of the no-confidence vote in Murcia and the early elections in Madrid, which left the party first without a presence in the regional government and then without a single seat in the Madrid Assembly. Facing another campaign without having recovered from this blow and in the midst of an offensive to absorb orange cadres by the PP could be lethal.
✅The 14 February setback forced Alejandro Fernández to make changes in an attempt to appease internal criticism. He thus included consensus profiles in an enlarged leadership that, with new elections, would have to lead the campaign with renewed efforts. The leadership believes that it is reviving a grassroots base that had distanced itself from the party and that is once again enthusiastic about the project. Moreover, they could also capitalise on the trickle of departures from Ciudadanos to present themselves as the solid alternative to unionism and the constitutionalist centre-right option.
❌The abyss to which the PP could find itself condemned is that its three MPs could end up becoming zero if Vox continues to rise. The PP would also have to face the possibility of redoing its electoral list. The incorporation of Lorena Roldán and Eva Parera at the top of the list generated internal criticism, because it meant leaving historical militants of the party in the background, who were left out of Parliament.
✅After being left out of Parliament with 77,000 votes, new elections would be another opportunity for Àngels Chacón. Her story would be to set an ideological profile and to try to capture the dissatisfaction with ERC, JxCat and the CUP after the disagreement.
❌Their main difficulties are to present themselves as a useful vote after failing to obtain representation and to retain the voters who on 14 February hesitated between them and JxCat or another party. The conditions, however, would be worse: PDECat no longer has electoral rights and would need funding after running out of Parliamentary income and the accumulated debt from the previous campaign.