Monthly Archives: November 2010

UPDATED: CiU wins Catalan elections – without absolute majority


Current results (99% of votes counted):

CiU 62

PSC 28

PPC 18


ERC 10

SI 4

C’s 3

(PxC 0)


The first results of today’s Catalan elections are in. CiU have won a convincing majority, which was to be expected. The PP has replaced ERC as the third largest group in Catalonia. The PSC has lost 10% of its vote. Iniciativa has fared worse than the last polls suggested. Solidaritat Catalana (‘SI’, Joan Laporta’s party) might get as many as 4 seats. Ciutadans have failed to do better than their previous successes.

CiU’s probable 66 seats leaves the party just short of an absolute majority in the Catalan parliament, but Artur Mas will be the new president. The question now is whether CiU will attempt to govern as a minority government, or if they’ll enter a coalition in order to guarantee the majority. Possible coalition partners would be the PP, ERC or even SI.

The PP would claim that they are the natural partners of CiU, and the two parties have been allied before. But the PP’s politics have become significantly more anti-Catalanista since then. It might be difficult to convince CiU activists that such a colition was really in Catalonia’s best interests.

Esquerra will obviously want to join a coalition. Their main political strategy recently has been to establish themselves as the kingmakers of Catalan politics. I get the impression that ERC might be a difficult sell too, though, as their support has dropped significantly in these elections. On the other hand, a weakened ERC might make a more attractive partner for CiU. It all comes down to whether CiU wants a Catalanist coalition, or would rather see ERC reduced to a minor force in Catalan politics. I suspect that they might prefer the latter option.

The wildcard here could be SI. Essentially a new party, they look like they could have the seats CiU needs, while also being small enough to be a pliable coalition partner. Personally, I see this as unlikely.

CiU obtindria entre 63 i 66 diputats; el PSC, entre 23 i 24; el PPC, entre 15 i 17; ERC, entre 11 i 13; ICV, entre 8 i 10; C’s, entre 2 i 3; SI, 4, i RI-Cat, 1.

Fighting an economic cold

Many of the pundits and newsreaders who refer to the current economic malaise threatening Europe use one term more than any other: contagion.

The suggestion is that the troubles that have afflicted Greece and now Ireland are a sort of water-borne disease, transmitted through the sewage-laden streams of international finance. And all we want to know is: how do we protect ourselves against this nasty infection? How do we beat the contagion?

The problem is that the crisis affecting Europe isn’t bacterial or viral at all. As Portugal, then Spain, Italy and France stand like dominoes waiting to be toppled, economic ministers (who often know nothing of economics) flail around looking for a vaccine. They don’t seem to realise that the contagion isn’t contagious at all. It’s a cancer.

The cancer of neoliberal capitalism has metastacised in multiple countries. It sucks the marrow from the bone and leeches the oxygen from the blood. The only way to get rid of it is surgically. By removing the financial sector from the centre of our national economies, we free ourselves from the carcinogenic effects of its vapours. We might be weakened after the operation but we’ll come back stronger.

If there is a spectre haunting Europe at the end of this miserable decade, it is the spectre of neoliberalism. And socialism is the doctor we need. Or the ghostbuster, or something.

28N: Catalan Elections 2010 – Who to vote for?

UPDATED: View the election results here

There’s one week to go until this year’s elections to the Catalan parliament. And that means that the competing parties are ramping up their campaigns, desperate to convince wary voters that they offer Catalonia the best chance of recovery and stability. Fools! Don’t they know that’s my job?!

In case you have the right to vote in these elections (I don’t), and aren’t sure who to vote for, allow me to go over the main candidates.

Artur Mas – CiU (Convergència i Unió)

Mas is a scumbag. He clearly believes that he is entitled to the presidency, dei gratia. His campaign has been heavy on frivolity and light on policy. CiU’s posters include: his face, considerably more jowly than before, a really irritating smiley face, and a slogan and weird little round logo lifted directly from Obama’s ‘change you can believe in’ campaign. It’s like they couldn’t decide which elements to go for, so they just threw everything in. CiU is a shamelessly self-interested political party that seeks to ‘defend’ the bourgeois of Sarriá and Sant Cugat by screwing the rest of us over. It will form a coalition with anyone (not that this is unusual) and I think it’s likely that Mas will pursue a Cameronite campaign of painful, unnecessary cuts to public spending. Civil servants, be afraid. Or just join CiU now and hand them 30% of your salary. Don’t worry: they don’t mind if you pilfer public funds to make up any shortfall. Oh, and Mas says he wants to be president ‘for 12 years’. Catalans, be very afraid.

José Montilla – PSC (Partit Socialista de Catalunya)

If there’s one thing that pisses me off about the Tripartit government we’ve had here for the last 4 years, it’s José Montilla. I don’t doubt that he’s a shrewd back room negotiator (his announcement that he only wants one more term in office confirms this). The thing is that Montilla is a deeply uninspiring, confidence-sapping grey technocrat of a politician. The PSC has run a generally austere campaign, except for this video of a young woman experiencing orgasmic bliss at the moment of democratic involvement – a video which would be rendered much more unsettling if, instead of a cute Catalan chick, it featured the old man from downstairs. This election represents an opportunity for voters to register their displeasure with a Tripartit government that, in one form or another, has run Catalonia for 8 years. And this is the problem: there’s much to dislike about the PSC (they’re fickle, fascist-appeasing, directionless, Madrid-controlled morons, for example), but the Tripartit itself has not actually been as bad as CiU would have you believe. With different people, it could have been a great government. Montilla’s little trick probably won’t get him returned as president, though.

Joan Puigcercós – ERC (Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya)

I get the impression that Puigcercós would be happy to remain a party leader rather than a national leader, as long as he remains in work. He’s not as left-wing as he should be, even though like me he studied politics and philosophy, and like me, failed to get a degree. I’m good at computers, he’s good at flags. Actually, Puigcercós strikes me as a fairly honest man, but a bit of a small-time loser. He’d make quite a good school teacher (except for the lack of a degree). ERC’s main policy is Catalan independence. If (and that’s a very big “if”) ERC manages to retain anything like its current position as Catalonia’s third party, Puigcercós would pact with whoever offered him the best deal. A nationalist coalition with CiU would probably be based on some sort of referendum for Catalan independence. Another Tripartit probably wouldn’t.

Alicia Sánchez-Camacho – PPC (Partit Popular de Catalunya)

Known in this house as “that fucking woman”, Sánchez-Camacho has presided over a Catalan PP that has plumbed the depths of right-wing hostility over the last few months. She’s a talentless monster. The PPC has progressed from highly racist electoral material in the mayoral election in Badalona, to producing a computer game where users ‘bombed’ immigrants and Catalan independentists for points. Graeme from South of Watford reckons that the PP are using Catalonia as a testing ground for newer, nastier tactics. He’s probably right. I’d be surprised if they do much better than the 10% they normally get – though low attendance WILL HELP THEM. So go out and vote, otherwise we’ll end up with her in bed with Artur Mas. So to speak.

Joan Herrera – ICV-EUiA (Iniciativa per Catalunya Verds – Esquerra Unida i Alternativa)

Red of cheek and earnest of word, Herrera is one of a handful of Catalan politicians I find it difficult to hate. The eco-socialists of Iniciativa aren’t exactly a powerful force, but they represent a broadly good political perspective: Marxism and environmentalism. In Cerdanyola del Vallès, they formed a town hall coalition with the PP, but they’ve also managed to turn CdV into a really pleasant town. Herrera gained some political capital by arguing that all Catalan MPs should declare their wealth and interests at the beginning and end of each parliament. He then revealed the slightly depressing, though all together pleasing, state of his finances. ERC and, to a degree, Ciutadans, followed suit. The PP, CiU and PSC (fat pigs, the lot of them) all said it was ‘silly’. Now, Montilla has said they’ll back any law that enforces this. I take this as evidence that Iniciativa’s left-wing policies speak to a youth vote that, apart from ‘free orgasms for voes’, the PSC is finding it difficult to engage with. Vote for this party.

Albert Rivera – C’s (Ciutadans – Partit de la Ciutadania)

The thing about Albert Rivera is that he’s obviously a talented chap. I just don’t believe that abandoning the entire system of autonomous communities and withdrawing official support for the Catalan language, while simultaneously indulging a very nebulous neoliberal economic policy is what we need. All too often, C’s supporters are racist scum, too. A low turnout might well favour C’s, the PPC and other fringe groups like the Falange Española de las JONS, España2000 and the Falange Autentica. Those are just examples of other parties. Picked at random.

Other parties and groups

There will be many other parties contesting these elections. They range from the neo-fascist Plataforma per Catalunya (PxC) to the Candidatura d’Unitat Popular (CUP), which stands for independence. You are free to vote for these, but it probably won’t have much effect on the election results.

Best result?

Actually, I think that a left-wing coalition would be the best way forward here. However, I really don’t like Montilla. But I like him more than I like Mas. In fact, four more years of Montilla as president would be a fair price to pay for the pleasure of seeing Artur Mas denied the residency AGAIN. So vote for Inicitativa, and hope for some sort of Tripartit. It wouldn’t be perfect but it would probably be the best we can get from these buffoons.

You don’t speak Catalan. And you’ve lived here how long?

One of the most frustrating debates I have with other expats (never Spaniards) in Barcelona is the one about Catalan school teaching. I know various Poles, Brits and Germans who bang on about Catalan being a stupid/dead/useless language and how they’d rather have their (real or imagined) kids educated in Castilian Spanish. Not one of these people speaks any Catalan. And they’ve been here for years.*

Of course, that’s each individual’s prerogative. Speak whatever language you like. But if you’ve been here for a few years and you don’t speak a word of it, something’s wrong. You know why? It’s not that hard.

If you speak Spanish, Italian or French, you should be able to pick up some Catalan in weeks. I’m not talking about nivell C, but you should be able to understand a school teacher if you’ve been here for a few years. You just should. If you don’t, you’re either incapable or unwilling. What’s it to be?

I’m happy to talk about language policy etc, with someone who can speak Catalan (like Trevor at kalebeul). But if you’ve made no effort to learn it – and it’s just NOT THAT DIFFICULT – then your opinion means nothing to me. Make the effort, then you’re entitled to your opinion.


*It is surely a coincidence that many of these people are given to a weird sort of anti-immigrant casual racism which is as unpleasant as it is illogical. Guys, you are immigrants. So am I. Do you lack all self knowledge?!