On 27 September 2015, five and a half million Catalan voters were called on to elect a new Catalan Parliament made up of 135 members. These were the choices on offer:
- Together for Yes / Junts pel Sí (JxSí)
- Citizens - Citizenship Party / Ciutadans - Partido de la Ciudadanía (C's)
- Catalonia Yes we Can / Catalunya Sí que es Pot (CatSíqueEsPot)
- Socialist Party of Catalonia / Partit dels Socialistes de Catalunya (PSC)
- People's Party / Partit Popular (PP)
- People's Unity Candidacy / Candidatura d'Unitat Popular (CUP)
- Democratic Union of Catalonia / Unió Democràtica de Catalunya (UDC)
- Let's Win Catalonia / Guanyem Catalunya (GANEMOS)
- Zero Cuts - The Greens / Recortes Cero - Els Verds (RECORTES CERO - ELS VERDS)
- Pirates of Catalonia - To decide everything / Pirates de Catalunya - Per decidir-ho tot (PIRATA.CAT/XDT)
- Animalist Party against Animal Mistreatment / Partit Animalista contra el Maltractament Animal (PACMA)
But there was more to these elections than meets the eye.
First of all, and despite the long-winded names, it's not easy at first sight to see who's who. Secondly, most of these are coalitions made up of more than one party and some are actually coalitions of coalitions. Thirdly, and most importantly, the elections were heralded as a plebisicite for Catalan independence by JxSí, who promised that if they won they would begin the definitive process towards independence.
Very briefly, then, and, as far as possible, from the horse's mouth...
(The figures in brackets show the number of seats and the share of the vote each party received).
JxSí is 'a list of candidates from civil society backed by Democratic Convergence of Catalonia / Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya (CDC) and Republican Left of Catalonia / Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) to win the elections of 27 September and build a new country'. (62, 39.54%)
C's began life in response to '25 years of suffocation of Catalan society by identity-based nationalist policies aimed at cultural uniformity in a diverse society and to fill the vacuum in the non-nationalist centre left'. (25, 17.93%)
The PSC's priority is to 'tackle inequality in income, wealth, information, training and opportunities. Relations with the rest of Spain can only be changed through talks, negotiation and consensus on a federal deal ratified by the citizens'. (16, 12.74%)
CatSíqueesPot presented a programme to 'ensure social justice, put an end to inequality and build real democracy'. The organisation gives more weight to social issues than to the question of Catalan independence. (11, 8.94%)
The PP 'guarantees that Catalans will remain Catalan, Spanish and European and that no-one is going to proclaim the independence of Catalonia'. (11, 8.5%)
The CUP is a 'national, assembly-based political organisation extending throughout Greater Catalonia (Països Catalans) and working towards an independent, socialist, ecologically sustainable and regionally balanced country free from patriarchal forms of domination'. (10, 8.2%)
UDC summed up its electoral programme as 'work, social spirit and nation' and 'recognition of Catalonia as a nation in the Spanish Constitution through a clause safeguarding the Catalan Government's powers in language, culture and taxation'. (0, 2.51%)
GANEMOS are left-wing malcontents who have broken away from various organisations and for whom democratic renewal takes priority over independence. (0, 0.03%)
RECORTES CERO - ELS VERDS has as its central plank the 'distribution of wealth to put an end to cuts and employment'. (0, 0.35%)
PIRATA.CAT/XDT defends 'human rights, direct democracy, transparency and open data and access to culture, knowledge and information'. (0, 0.01%)
The PACMA defends 'animal rights, the environment and social justice'. (0, 0.73%)
JxSí and the CUP are both explicitly pro-independence parties, so at first sight it looked as though they would form a majority in favour of independence. The problem, though, was that the JxSí deputies had pledged to vote for Artur Mas, leader of CDC, as President of the Catalan Government, and both he and his party are shunned by the CUP on account of their right-wing stand on social issues and their links with corruption. After three months' wrangling and just 24 hours before Artur Mas, as interim President, was legally obliged to call new elections, the contenders came up with a bizarre workaround to the stalemate. 1. Artur Mas would step aside as presidential candidate in favour of Carles Puigdemont, currently Mayor of Girona. 2. The CUP would at no time vote with those groups opposed to Catalan independence. 3. Eight CUP deputies would vote for Puigdemont and two would abstain. 4. Two CUP deputies would take part in the discussions and decision-making of JxSí in order to ensure a stable majority.
So on Sunday 10 January 2016, the Catalan Parliament elected Carles Puigdemont 130th President of the Generalitat with a mandate to create state structures and lead the country to independence within 18 months.