Pandemic places Catalan independence on backseat in Sunday’s election By Reuters

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Preparations for regional election, in Barcelona

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By Joan Faus

BARCELONA (Reuters) – For near a decade, campaigning for parliamentary elections in Catalonia has been dominated by its push for independence.

However for Sunday’s regional poll, healthcare and the economic system have taken centre stage as candidates, together with these representing the outgoing – and more and more divided – pro-secession governing coalition, spar over how finest to include considered one of Europe’s worst coronavirus epidemics.

The rich northeastern area has the second-highest regional demise toll in Spain, the place greater than 63,000 have succumbed to the illness.

In 2017, simply two months after a chaotic and short-lived declaration of independence thrust Catalonia into the worldwide highlight and triggered Spain’s deepest political disaster for many years, two separatist events garnered sufficient votes in parliament to kind a coalition.

This time, with fears over the pandemic probably resulting in record-high voter abstention charges, the result is extensive open.

The 2 essential separatist events – centre-right Junts and leftist Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya – are neck and neck in opinion polls with the Socialists, whose marketing campaign is being led by Spain’s former well being minister.

The separatists hope to high a mixed 50% of votes for the primary time.

However even when they get to kind one other coalition – and a few surveys have proven the Socialists, who favour continued union with Spain, forward – a renewed independence push seems off the agenda, at the very least in the interim.

DIALOGUE, OR CONFRONTATION?

Within the aftermath of the occasions of 2017 – when nationwide authorities first outlawed an independence referendum and, after the area unilaterally declared secession, briefly took over its authorities – most of the actions senior leaders are both in jail or have left Spain to keep away from prosecution.

“The separatist motion doesn’t have a (clear aim) on the horizon because it did in 2017,” mentioned Joan Esculies, historical past professor on the College of Vic, north of Barcelona.

The motion has additionally been weakened by divisions over technique.

Esquerra favours dialogue with the leftist central authorities and has been considered one of its key companions within the Spanish parliament, whereas Junts has adopted a extra confrontational method.

The Socialists, the senior get together in Spain’s governing nationwide coalition, selected Salvador Illa, well being minister in Madrid till two weeks in the past, to entrance their marketing campaign, searching for to profit from his publicity through the pandemic.

Illa, 54, has embraced a conciliatory tone. He opposes independence however has promised dialogue.

Have been he to grab the area away from the separatists, which might additionally entail discovering coalition companions, that will mark a big break with historical past, as nationalist events have ruled Catalonia for 34 of the final 41 years.

“I suggest to look ahead to the longer term with out reproaches,” Illa advised Reuters, additionally promising an financial revival in a area that suffered an exodus of companies following the referendum.

The election might even have repercussions in Madrid.

If Junts stays the largest separatist get together, there may very well be rising inside opposition to Esquerra’s technique after it handed votes to the Spanish authorities in alternate for dialogue on the Catalan political disaster.