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The Center has Fallen: Polarized Pluralism and Catalan Elections

by ManfromMiddletown Mon Oct 20th, 2014 at 08:46:21 AM EST

Color the staff at The Economist confused. Writing on the current situation in Catalonia, they note:

A three-way game of brinkmanship between Mr Rajoy, Mr Mas and the separatist Catalan Republican Left (ERC) party that props up his government in Catalonia is creating uncertainty. Mr Rajoy has used the constitutional court to block the referendum, though it may take another five months to rule definitively that it is illegal. He offers little else beyond a readiness to talk. ERC proposes civil disobedience, an illegal referendum and, eventually, a unilateral declaration of independence. If it cannot have these, it wants an election that it is likely to win.

While the results are uncertain, the probability of a snap election is increasing daily.  As is the collapse of CiU dominance of the Catalan regional politics, and the emergence of a form of polarized pluralism in the region as the political center flattens out, and the fringes rise.  The term postmodern 1930s certainly springs to mind. Stage set.


Stage Set

In order to understand the current morass, it helps to know the field on which the coming elections will be fought.

First, Catalonia has a parliamentary system, competition in which dictates control of the Generalitat, the Catalan regional government. Restored in the waning years of the transition to democracy, the present Generalitat is a restoration of the regional government which existed in the 1930s, and prior to the 18th century. Beginning with the Basque Country, Catalonia, and Galicia, Madrid devolved powers to the historic regions.

In the early 1980s, this was extended to the entirety of the country, creating regional governments known as autonomous communities in a process colloquially known as cafe para todos, coffee for all.

The Catalan regional assembly consists of 135 members elected via PR list from each of the four Catalan provinces.  The largest province, centered on the capital Barcelona, elects 85 members, while the remainder are spread, more or less equally, among the other provinces. Building a stable governing coalition requires the support of 68 members.  Up until the late 1990s, CiU could reliably depend on seat returns granting them an absolute majority.  Beginning in the 1999 election, ERC began to eat into support for CiU, leading them to depend on the support of the main Spanish conservative party, PP.  After an interlude in the period between 2003-2010 in which PSC, the local branch of PSOE, the Spanish socialists, ruled, CiU returned to power.  Relying upon the abstention of PSC in order to install their leader as regional premier in 2010, subsequent snap elections, called in the wake of large demonstrations favoring Catalan independence, saw them first into an awkward coalition with rival ERC after the 2012 election.  It is this government that ERC is threatening to bring down absent a genuine independence referendum, which, after all, had been a condition of their support for allowing CiU to take power in 2012.

Dramatis Personae

In the coming Catalan regional elections, 7-8 parties can, more or less, be depended upon to take seats in the new parliament.  Briefly, these are:

CiU: Convergence and Union

Actually a coalition of two parties, similar to the relationship between the CDU and CSU in Germany, albeit without a territorial divide.  The CDC, aka Convergence, is the larger of the two, and is further to the left both in terms of social/economic questions, in which it is essentially of Third Way.  And in terms of Catalan nationalism, where it supports greater regional autonomy, but not independence.  UDC, aka Union, is a Christian Democratic party that holds similar views on the nationalism issue, albeit more reticent about working with ERC.  Traditionally the Catalan party of government, CiU has been in electoral union since 1978.  Recent rumblings suggest that the more that Mas, the leader of CDC (and CiU), appeases ERC, the more likely UDC is to bolt.  Until recently CiU could be depended upon to take between 30-60% of seats in the regional parliament. Current polling suggests that will fall to under 20% in the next election, further if Convergence and Union split.

PSC: Socialist Party of Catalonia

PSC is the Catalan branch of PSOE, the Spanish Socialists.  Traditionally the second largest party in the Catalan assembly, PSC benefits enormously from CiU occupying the center right space usually held by the PP in the rest of Spain.  From 2003-2010, PSC controlled the regional government with the support of two smaller left parties, including ERC.  At times, the relationship between PSC and PSOE has been strained by the former's flirtations with federalism.

ERC: Republican Left of Catalonia

ERC occupies much of the left wing of the nationalist political space, and has been successful in recent years in drawing support away from CiU.  Since the collapse of CiU dominance in the 1990s, ERC has been able to use its position as kingmaker in order to expand its representation in the regional assembly.  It has been the primary beneficiary of the recent uptick in nationalist sentiment in the region, and it has been successful in channeling discontent with the politics of austerity coming from Madrid into support for Catalan nationalism.  If successful in fracturing open CiU, ERC stands to assume the mantle of leadership on the nationalism issue away from them.  ERC has significant, militant, internal tendencies, welcoming former members of Terra Lliure, a Catalan separatist organization, into its fold after they renounced armed struggle in the late 1980s.  In their ease with militancy, ERC shares certain characteristics with Batasuna, and in fact prompted a major scandal for their PSC coalition partners when ERC leader Carod Rovira was found to have held a secret meeting with ETA members in France.  Support for armed resistance has largely evaporated in the Basque Country, but there seems to be a growing appetite for militant action in certain quarters of the ERC.

PPC: Popular Party of Catalonia

PPC is the Catalan affiliate of the PP, the Spanish Conservatives.  It has never been able to compete effectively in Catalan elections, however it did provide the necessary support for CiU to enter government in 1999, when it fell short of an absolute majority.  PPC has much less independence than the PSOE branch, PSC, in the region.  Almost always at the margin of Catalan politics, PPC only matters in tight situations, and in the coming elections it stands to lose seats to C's, Ciutadans, banishing it to total irrelevance.  This trend to extinction in the region has not been lost on the national party, and seems to underlie the particularly hard line they take on the nationalism issue.  This is somewhat ironic as CiU supported the PP in electing a PM during the Aznar years.

ICV: Initiative for Catalonia Greens

ICV is the local branch of IU, the Spanish United Left, and a collection of green groups.  Stands at the margins, normally returning 5-10 seats in elections.  A modest increase in support in recent years has waned as Podemos has emerged.  ICV has been supportive of an independence referendum, and will tend to support ERC on these matters.

C's: Citizens

C's has emerged in recent years as a response to growing Catalan nationalism.  Nominally a party of the center left in opposition to nationalism, the party draws support from, and flirts with, the far right.  Think UKIP.  Pulls support from PPC and the right wing of CiU.  Will probably return 15-20 seats in the coming elections.

CUP: Popular Unity Candidates

CUP is a small left wing Catalan natonalist party.  Largely supportive of the ERC take on the nationalism issue, although it is much further to the left on economic issues.  First ran for the regional assembly in 2012.  Will probably return 5-7 seats.

Podemos

Podemos hardly needs an introduction.  After achieving a modest success in 2014 EP elections, support for the group exploded across Spain.  Podemos is a direct answer to growing distaste with the austerity politics coming from Madrid.  There are good reasons to have hope that they will succeed in next year's national elections, but there are reasons to be concerned.

First, the party has a highly ambigous position on the nationalism issue.  The consensus decision making model they've inherited from the indignados empowers extremists, and could pose a serious problem for the party as it runs in Catalan regional elections.  That said, it will probably return 10-15 seats in the Catalan regional assembly.

Polarized Pluralism

The great danger facing Catalonia in the coming elections is the specter of polarized pluralism.  Largely absent from modern politics in developed countries, the idea has its roots in the proliferation of small extremist parties in 1930s Europe that emptied out the political center.  As support for the center disappears, parties have to move to the fringes in order to compete.  Arguably, this process has been underway in Catalonia, lending credence to the whole hypothesis of viewing the present through the prism of a postmodern 1930s.  Let me explain.

Below I've tried to arrange the parties represented in the Catalan parliament from left to right.  I am only interested in the nationalism issue, so you get oddities like placing CiU to the left of PSC.  The following is meant more as an analytical model than a holistic depiction of reality.

Let's start back in 1992.  This was the last year in which CiU was able to form a government with the support of a coalition partner.  As such it represents the apogee of the two party plus system which existed in the region.  For consistency, I am using present party names.

In 1992, CiU eked out a narrow absolute majority.  More importantly note that over 80% of the seats are held by one of the two major parties.

Fast forward to the 2012 elections. Note that only 52% of seats are held by one of the two, traditional, major parties.  CiU is pulled to the left, in this case that being towards greater support for nationalism by the need for ERC support to form a government. The center is flattening out, while the fringes are rising.

Fast forward to the present.  With less than half its mandated term finished, snap elections appear to be on the horizon.  The trend only progresses further.  I've distributed the seat return away from the center towards the fringes in order to demonstrate the greatest potential for polarized pluralism.  Seat returns are based on the latest poll.

I haven't included Podemos here, because I honestly haven't a clue how they will fall on the nationalism issue.  My gut tells me that they end up in the same space as ICV, if not in an electoral coalition with them.  This is but one of several potential hiccups which exist.  Looking forward to the coming national elections in Spain, my feeling is that C's is going to run together with UPyD, a similar party from the Basque region. If so, that probably drains support away from PPC in these elections, as I expect the news of a formal relationship to break before any snap election.  As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, the coalition between Convergence and Union, which forms the CiU, is beginning to crack.  This is the center of Catalan politics.  In the best case scenario, the CiU/PSC share of seats is likely to fall to less than a third.  The center has fallen.

Now let's talk about the dirty business of forming a government. The magic number is 68.

2014 Seats

CUP     5
ERC     34
ICV     8
CiU     26
PSC     15
PPC     17
C's     18
Podemos 12

A grand coalition of the center (CiU, PSC, PPC) only gets us to 58.  Really a non-starter.  I can't see Podemos participating in a coalition with any of these parties, and even if they abstain, that's still 60 against to 58 for.

Assuming that CiU can enter another nationalist coalition without fracturing, there is a path via CiU-ERC-ICV-CUP to 73 seats.  Yet, this is unlikely, as it would almost certainly fracture CiU.  Moreover, at this point ERC and CUP are pretty much radioactive.  With the exception of ICV and maybe Podemos, they are going to be on the outside.

So let's kick CiU out, and bring Podemos in.  An ERC-ICV-CUP-Podemos coalition only gets us to 59 seats.  Even if PSC abstains, that still leads to a 59 for, 61 against failure.

Please play with the numbers.  I just don't see a viable coalition emerging, which means new elections after this coming set of snap elections.  That augurs further drift to the fringes, further polarized pluralism.

Conclusion

What to take away from this?

There's a fleeting possibility that the CiU attempts to replace the support from ERC, with that of PSC.  That gets you to a coalition of 70, and the unending enmity of the fringes.  It only postpones the problem, and probably not even until 2015, as there will be national elections in Spain at some point in 2015.  The same polarized pluralism which is manifesting now in Catalonia is developing at a slower rate in the rest of Spain, where the two-party share of seats is set to fall to just over 60%.  An electoral union between UPyD and C's presents a right counterpart to Podemos on the left.  Using Podemos as a template that would drop the two party share of votes, and seats, to well under half.  Competing for support from parties of the fringes forces the parties of the center to the sides.

Wash and repeat for a postmodern 1930s.

Display:
Thanks for the limpid summary of a complex and fluid situation, exactly the sort of analysis that the news media don't provide (and it's not the journalists' fault : the situation is too complex for the attention span of the news consumers. Like New Zealand.)

But I don't get the 1930s analogy, I think you need to be clearer on this. If you're talking about Spain in the 1930s, then frankly no (or at least, you need to develop the question extensively). If you're talking about the rise of fascism in Europe, then I can't see that either.

Perhaps I'm missing the point because I don't see the collapse of the centre as an inherently bad thing. Whatever happens, a majority government of either extreme is an unlikely outcome; multipartism imposes coalition. Perhaps I'm underestimating the explosiveness of the nationalism issue, because I tend to see it as a lot of empty posturing (there being no constitutional route to independance), butwWhat I see is a major shift to the left, which can only be a good thing for the people of Catalonia, and by extension, for Spain, insofar as it can be a catalyser for a wider recomposition. Let a thousand flowers bloom.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 04:47:39 AM EST
My take on the center is that when you get into a situation where the middle ground position is unoccupiable, the extremes get strengthened and in a proportional representation setting coalitions get shortlived or can not be formed.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 06:53:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, this is the point I was trying to make, and is the definition of polarized pluralism in a nutshell.  The archetype of polarized pluralism is Germany during the 1930s.  

The idea is that the polarization of the electorate into right and left ensures that radical solutions (aka Catalan independence vs. banning the public use of the Catalan language) are on the agenda instead of more moderate ones (enhanced regional autonomy) which depend upon a solid center.

Eventually this leads to politics spilling out of electoral conflict, into the street.  The ensuing chaos forms the basis for a rejection of politics in favor of a Caesarian solution, aka Hitler or Franco.  

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 09:36:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There is no Caesarean solution in Catalonia. Are you suggesting the formation of a single-issue independentist majority in Catalonia will cause a coup in Spain?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 09:45:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No.  I'n suggesting that if the status quo is untenable. Please explain to me how to form a viable coalition from the seat totals that recent polling suggests.

The balance of politics in Catalonia is to the Left, but there's a cleavage between the nationalist left (for whom independence is the issue) and the economic left (for whom austerity is). The problem is that you have parties (ERC) who have managed to seize upon independence as a solution to austerity.  

With the ERC running the show, the probability of a unilateral declaration of independence by the Catalan regional government becomes a possibility.  If Podemos signs up for this, it becomes a much stronger one.

How do you think Madrid will respond if that happens?

I'm going to say that a solution involving the revocation of Catalan self government is in the cards if that happens.  

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 10:06:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A revocation of catalan self-government is not a "solution", it's just one more step in the escalation of the political crisis.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 10:27:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Does Rajoy know that?

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg
by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 10:53:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And if he does, can he resist the demands of those in his party who don't?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 10:56:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not saying it's unlikely, I'm just saying it wouldn't be the last word.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 11:12:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I worry that the last word won't be words.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg
by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 04:15:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And you say that sitting in the US midwest...

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 07:00:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
True enough. I'm an outside observer, but if this thing goes sideways the consequences will run way beyond Spain.

Suspending the regional government, let alone arrestjng elected officials.  I just don't see it going over well on the world stage.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 07:36:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It would probably be with clear legal cause.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 07:51:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So, can I crash in your couch if it blows up? I'm not staying for the fireworks once they are scheduled.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 07:52:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We have an extra dog bed.


And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg
by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Wed Oct 22nd, 2014 at 12:42:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Going well on the world stage? Of course it will.

Just see how ignored the whole issues regarding Hungarian democracy have been.

As long as it does not impact the financial elites or the construction of the EU utopia and the expansion of globalization, it is wholly acceptable.

by cagatacos on Wed Oct 22nd, 2014 at 04:15:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Please explain to me how to form a viable coalition from the seat totals that recent polling suggests.
With these results

ERC     34
CiU     26
C's     18
PPC     17
PSC     15
Podemos 12
ICV     8
CUP     5

I see three more or less viable coalitions:

(Centre-Right)
CiU C PPC PSC           76 = 26 18 17 15
(Centre-Left)
ERC PSC Podemos ICV     69 = 34 15 12 8
(Catalanist)
ERC CiU ICV             68 = 34 26 8

And a bunch of arithmetically possible unnatural coalitions:

ERC C PSC Podemos       79 = 34 18 15 12
ERC CiU C               78 = 34 26 18
ERC PPC PSC Podemos     78 = 34 17 15 12
ERC CiU PPC             77 = 34 26 17
ERC CiU PSC             75 = 34 26 15
ERC C PSC ICV           75 = 34 18 15 8
ERC PPC PSC ICV         74 = 34 17 15 8
CiU C PPC Podemos       73 = 26 18 17 12
ERC CiU Podemos         72 = 34 26 12
ERC C PSC CUP           72 = 34 18 15 5
ERC C Podemos ICV       72 = 34 18 12 8
CiU C PSC ICV CUP       72 = 26 18 15 8 5
CiU PPC PSC ICV CUP     72 = 26 17 15 8 5
ERC PPC PSC CUP         71 = 34 17 15 5
ERC PPC Podemos ICV     71 = 34 17 12 8
CiU C PSC Podemos       71 = 26 18 15 12
CiU PPC PSC Podemos     71 = 26 17 15 12
C PPC PSC Podemos ICV   70 = 18 17 15 12 8
ERC C PPC               69 = 34 18 17
ERC C Podemos CUP       69 = 34 18 12 5
CiU C PPC ICV           69 = 26 18 17 8
CiU PPC Podemos ICV CUP 69 = 26 17 12 8 5
ERC PPC Podemos CUP     68 = 34 17 12 5

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 11:11:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But in Germany before the Nazi takeover, radical solutions were on the agenda and militancy was on the street (remember Rosa Luxemburg) right from the end of WWI due to the war loss and the unreasonable reparations demands; and these radical solutions didn't become majority opinion and street violence didn't escalate until centre-left-supported and centre-right-pursued austerity in the face of recession, that is, the polarisation was a result of the unworkability of the 'moderate' agenda rather than the other way around.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 09:48:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That is much oversimplifying the situation.The decline of the center-right e. g. started much earlier.
by IM on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 02:59:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Geometric reasoning is not always a good guide to political interpretation.

No one in the catalan or spanish parliament has proposed banning of catalan language. What is very timidly supported by some (PP) and more valiantly by others (Ciutadans) is to allow parents some choice, according to the law, in the dominant language of schooling for their children.

The "extreme"  opposed to a unilateral declaration of indepedence is the rule of law.

by IvoCrouchback on Fri Oct 24th, 2014 at 02:54:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Welcome to ET, IvoCrouchback.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2014 at 04:58:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Catalan case is one where there are several clearly distinct ideological axes. there's not just economic left/right and social left/right, but also a nationalist/centralist axis, This means there's room for many more parties, the center is rather small, and moreover the correlation of forces is very sensitive to changes in the relative importance of the various axes.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 06:57:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is entirely the case, and if you move from a two dimensional (aka lets plot party strength on a right left line)analysis to a three dimensional one (aka let's set up a nationalist/centralist axis and a left/right one) you may see things differently.  But, that's much harder to interpret.  And, I think that you still find that the center has emptied out. So same problem with a real inability to form a viable governing coalition. (And, even to get parties to abstain from voting to allow a minority government to be installed.)

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg
by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 10:13:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The collapse of the centre is really the collapse of the Social Democrats. To put some numbers on this, let's look at the sequence of vote shares gained by the PSC from its peak 15 years ago:

2012 14.4%
2010 18.4%
2006 26.8%
2003 31.2%
1999 37.8%

Pretty impressive, is it not?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 10:38:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But the CiU's collapse is similarly impressive, no?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 10:43:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
CiU:

2014 polls (average of last five) 18.5%
2012 30.7%
2010 38.4%
2006 31.5%
2003 30.9%
1999 37.9%

So a fluctuation above 30% until 2012 and a collapse now.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 10:52:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
CiU's is not a secular collapse, it's just ERC recently eating its nationalist lunch.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 11:13:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Which is why I doubt they go into coalition with ERC again. And that.  That wipes out two of the coalitions you mentioned below.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg
by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 11:28:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That may well be, but then repeat elections tend to clarify the landscape. So, the question is how would voters react to a hung parliament and a second round of elections. Which parties would drain support to which other parties?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 11:34:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Agreed. I imagine that we only see more polarization.  And I think that the CiU splits open.

In the long run, ERC wins out.  And they opt for a unilateral declaration of independence.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 12:09:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How does unilateral independence work, politically and on the ground?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 12:22:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Probably as well as it did in 1934.

It was an ERC President of the Generalitat that proclaimed the Catalan Republic in 1934.

He was imprisoned and replaced by a military governor, with the Catalan government suspended.

Presumably this time the new governor will not be a general.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 03:52:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My point being, does ERC have, or think they have, strength on the ground to pull off a unilateral declaration of independence? The current independence referendum drive didn't get past Artur Mas' unwillingness to ask Catalan civil servants to carry out illegal orders.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 06:59:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Does politics always have to be rational?


And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg
by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 07:37:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It is, but I think  we can agree these voters didn't leave the PSC for CiU.  PSC is unionist, and moderate.

This collapse of support probably didn't benefit CiU.  These voters most likely walked into either ERC, ICV, or C's. All of which poses accentuates the nationalism issue.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 10:43:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What do participation rates look like?

In the rest of Europe, collapsing social democratic parties have lost a lot of voters to the Sofa Party, from which they then leak back into assorted left-wing or ugly parties over the course of the next few election cycles.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 02:56:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't have the numbers from the early 1980s (which would presumably be very, very high) but from the late 1980s:

1988  59.4%
1992  54.9%
1995  63.6%
1999  59.2%
2003  62.5%
2006  56.0%
2010  58.8%
2012  67.8%

There may be public opinion polling from the CIS (the Spanish government social research body) but I'd have to look. I don't think that the dynamic of decreased participation is as relevant here. I think that austerity is the issue.


And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 04:00:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And now I've found me some toys.

CIS has  opinion polling on public perception of where each party lies on Catalan nationalism, with 1 indicated the least support and 10 the most. From the Nov 2012 numbers:

PPC 1.63
C   2.48
PSC 4.37
ICV 5.62
CIU 7.66
ERC 8.99

 

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 04:14:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Perhaps I'm underestimating the explosiveness of the nationalism issue, because I tend to see it as a lot of empty posturing (there being no constitutional route to independance)
Precisely because there is no constitutional route to independence the nationalistm issue is so explosive. There is no middle ground and if the "centre" shifts towards independence there are no constitutional solutions.

As well-respected constitutional scholar Javier Pérez Royo noted already years ago, there is no legal solution to the current impasse, but a political solution because only through politics can the constitutional contradiction be resolved. But statesmanship is notoriously absent here.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 07:19:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Perhaps I'm missing the point because I don't see the collapse of the centre as an inherently bad thing.

The way I understood it, the problem is that in the current situation, the collapse of the centre is not the end of the process, as the parties will compete to reach ever further extremes in opposed directions(and fracture not just along a single dimension as Migeru suggests), resulting in several incompatible but potentially militant medium to small parties.

Regarding a 1930s analogy, I'm not sure there is a really good one. In Germany, there have been several parties throughout Weimar, and there really were just 2-3 elections where the fringes in general strengthened, then the NSDAP bloated up on one side and the nominal centre parties folded and voted for the Gleichschaltung before the centre truly disappeared in a real election. In other Central European countries, fascist and semi-fascist forces took over without a prior total disintegration of the party landscape, even if the parallel strengthening of fascists and communists was common. And France was a rather different story, with true-blue far-right movements having been kind of marginal as extra-parliamentary movements, and the Communists joining a government coalition.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 09:26:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think ManFromMiddletown may be thinking of the formation of People's Front governments in Spain and France as the operative 1930s analogy here. That is, of cource, if the Catalan nationalist parties decide to band together into a single list to try and make the next regional election into a referendum on independence (the rest of the Calatan parties will not bad together into an anti-independence front, and so their vote will be diluted by the imperfect proportionality of the election system).

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 09:31:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes and no.

History rhymes, rather than repeats.  But, the idea of social science is that you can distill certain abstract patterns from what's happened in the past.

Polarized pluralism says that as the center empties out, the normal tendency of politics to push parties to the center disappears as the unimodal distribution of voters we associate with functioning democracies gives way to a bimodal one.  Over time, the absence of a center makes functioning government virtually impossible.  A disfunctional political system discredits itself, making room for men who don't see the need to be accountable to mere parties. (aka Franco)

It's worth noting that in the 1930s it was the issue of Catalan independence that ultimately was the final straw, Espana una y grande and all.

Now as to a common front of the Catalan parties, I just don't seeing it happen.  I see either CiU splitting open with CDC moving towards ERC, and UDC moving in the direction of PPC, or I see the left wing of CiU emptying out in favor of ERC.  To some extent, the latter has arguably already occurred.

The problem is that this is all leading to a situation in which Catalonia is ungovernable, and the unity of Spain is seen to be in danger by people willing to act on that.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 09:58:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's worth noting that in the 1930s it was the issue of Catalan independence that ultimately was the final straw, Espana una y grande and all.
Can you spell that out?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 10:00:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Two things happened during the right wing CEDA government in 1934 which ensured that the generals would act if a new left wing government took charge at a later date.

The Asturian miner's strike and the proclamation of the Catalan Republic.

The Asturian miners revolt began on 4 Oct 1934, and the Catalan regional government  (led by the ERC) proclaimed the Catalan regional government on 6 Oct 1934. Members of the Catalan regional government were imprisoned.  The Popular Front government released them  in 1936 (and restored Basque local government) which convinced the generals that the unity of  Spain was in danger. So they plotted.

Spain is different today, but that same terror that Spain will be torn apart remains.  Military action is much harder to coordinate, but I could see a right wing government in Madrid acting to suspend any regional government that tries to repeat the proclamations of a Catalan Republic which occurred in 1931 and 1934.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 10:38:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It has been my impression that until the recent focus on austerity, a strong component of Catalan separatism was middle-class tax-payer anti-solidarity ("don't bring our money to Andalusia"); in the veneer of Flemish-Belgian, Bavarian separatism or at EU level Brexit advocates. Does/did this appear in ERC's rhetoric in some form?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 01:22:54 PM EST
ERC has made very controversial statements against territorial fiscal solidarity within Spain. The Spanish left was pretty miffed.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 06:56:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think the observation of the falling centre is spot on, but then what?

In proportional representative democracies the center can fall or at least undergo some transformation from time to time. If you have more then one axis with some strenght forming a majority can be hard. In Sweden we had a transformation in the 20ies, an almost transformation in the around 1980 and some interesting times ahead.

In the 20ies we went from having liberals and socialists forming the left versus conservatives on the right to socialists versus non-socialists. Around 1980 we had a green-nuclear axis that prevented both the soc-dems (nuclear) from ruling and the formation of a stable non-socialist majority (as it was split on the green-nuclear axis).

To have more collapsing collapses we can look at the italian political landscape in the 1990ies when the old centre was wiped of the map and new forces (primarily Berlusconi) rose instead.

So my question is what stable end states are there?

I can think of two.

Catalonian independence. Catalonia breaks with Spain and forms an independent country. Politics goes on in both countrys but the indepence-federalism axis is gone with respect to Catalonia and Spain.

Spain non-austerity. With the removal of austerity the Spanish government can again provide enough material wealth to make indepence a less critical matter. PPC and PSC can make a comeback as the important alternatives.

Of these two, the first is more likely, but perhaps there are more?

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Mon Oct 27th, 2014 at 11:28:40 AM EST
The center has fallen in Catalonia, but also in Spain. Corruption cases are finally taking a toll on the ruling PP and the national PSOE shows the same kind of secular decline as the Catalan PSC. Depending on which poll you look at, Podemos is now either in second or third place. Right now, you're looking at the PSOE facing a choice between joining Podemos and United Left in a left coalition, or joining the PP in a grand coalition. But if the decomposition of the current political economy continues for another year, there is every possibility that Podemos will win the general election.

The most toxic scenario is one in which Podemos comes 3rd but it decides that it doesn't want to conform to the convention that in a coalition the larger party has the PM job, and thus to demand that the PSOE make their leader PM in a left coalition, in order to push the PSOE to a grand coalition which will alienate it from its base.

Slightly less toxic is the scenario in which Podemos comes second , and the PSOE rather than join Podemos as a junior partner decides to join a grand coalition.

Of course, a Podemos-PSOE-IU government will send the serious people into a panic, both in Spain and in Europe.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Oct 27th, 2014 at 11:43:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Absolutely agreed. The latrst corruption cases announced today will probably strenghten Podemos. If Podemos polls within 5 points of PP/PSOE, Brussels will shit kittens. Also the same collapse of the center seen in Spain is probable in the uk with ukip too.  Some writing is in order.


And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg
by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Tue Oct 28th, 2014 at 12:24:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If Podemos polls within 5 points of PP/PSOE, Brussels will shit kittens.
You mean within 5 points of either or within 5 points of the sum of the two?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 28th, 2014 at 03:06:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Of either. Sum PSOE PP and you see that in Spain as a whole you get the two with only half the vote.  If Podemos bleeds PSOE and Cs+UPyD bleed PP. That only gets worse.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg
by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Tue Oct 28th, 2014 at 11:16:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, since Podemos is within 5% of being in first place nationally, Brussels should be shitting kittens already.

The poll above gives PP + PSOE 52% and PSOE + Podemos + IU 53%. But this is vote percentages and the Spanish electoral system is highly non-proportional. Nevertheless, it looks almost certain that PP + PSOE will get less than 50% of the vote in next year's general election, and there is a fair chance that Podemos will get the most votes.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 28th, 2014 at 11:43:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Is the Podemos team strong and focused enough to avoid fizzling out like new parties elsewhere in Europe?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Oct 28th, 2014 at 03:36:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We don't know, but they polled more strongly in their debut election (last May's European election) than, for instance, any of the Pirate parties. And they have momentum right now.

I should point out that the leading team, Iglesias, Monedero and especially Errejón are very politically savvy.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 28th, 2014 at 08:10:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I wish I had a better idea of what the actual operation of the "circles" looked like, but I get the impression that the leadership team is solid.  That they've been able to translate indignation into actual political action is a sign that they are better organized than Occupy.  

In the US, Occupy took a very anti-politics turn very quickly, which is a problem if you want actual change. The problem was that the consensus model empowered the crazies, because it essentially meant that whoever could drag out a meeting the longest won. That doesn't bode well for a movement predicated on mass participation, because they masses have other commitments, like a job.

I have hopes for Podemos, if nothing else than that some success might provide a model for a new populist Left in the developed world. Occupy ended up as a simulacra of the indignados, because the whole show was initiated by an ad agency, but perhaps Spain can teach the world how to convert indignation into political action if Podemos can succeed.  

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Wed Oct 29th, 2014 at 12:51:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Get some grant money and come over to study it :D

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Oct 29th, 2014 at 01:27:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not going to even be able to finish my phd so that wont be happening.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg
by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Wed Oct 29th, 2014 at 02:09:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Spain's state opinion polling institute is about to release an electoral barometer putting Podemos in first place in direct voter intent.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Oct 29th, 2014 at 04:09:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So, fast forward a bit the Spanish end state looks like a new balance with a right that is pro-austerity and (as now) anti-devolution of powers and a left that is anti-austerity and pro-devolution (but not pro Catalan independence.

So as I see it (from afar) we have two scenarios.

In the first the new anti-austerity left wins in Spain, with new prosperity easing the tensions and some form of deal on more devolution (if there are no more powers that can resonably be devolved, this could be symbolic stuff) saves face on both sides. For this to happen Podemos needs to win big enough before ERC wins big enough.

In the second ERC wins big enough in Catalonia and takes it on the road towards independence in conflict with the wishes of PP (or PP-PSOE grand coalition) led austerian Spain. This leads either to Catalan independence or armed conflict.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Wed Oct 29th, 2014 at 05:51:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Perhaps more importantly : an ERC government set on conflict would probably tilt the agenda for national elections towards the question of secession, which would probably favour PP and PSOE over Podemos and other non-traditionals.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Wed Oct 29th, 2014 at 06:32:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The only argument right now for a PP/PSOE government after next year is the need for a constitutional reform. But they have had many many years to do a reform and they haven't so that argument is just special pleading.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Oct 29th, 2014 at 06:50:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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