After years of protest for independence and a failed referendum, Catalans return to the polls. But it will not be ordinary elections this time either. The long shadow of corona hangs over the polls.
first vote on the major markets in Barcelona will also be possible on Sunday. The polls in schools are so relieved, is the thought. Silvia Domenech, master of the huge classic Mercat del Ninot, points to the tables that are still stacked behind the fish stalls. “On Sunday there are four big voting tables here. Voters come in from the side on Sunday, and go out at the back. So that there will be no accumulations.”
Domenech is hopeful that voters will come despite the pandemic. “You can put all your ballot in the envelope at home. Voting at the tables does not have to last more than thirty seconds. Shorter than standing in line at the checkout of the supermarket.”
But nobody knows exactly what will happen in Catalonia, where there is a curfew, and restaurants and cafes are closed in the evening. “Let us hope that the turnout is at least 60%,” says political scientist Oriol Bartomeus. “It may be that more people stay at home. Then the rash is really unpredictable.”
According to Bartomeus, the political turmoil of recent years has calmed down somewhat. At the end of 2017, Catalans still voted with the severe aftershocks of the banned referendum. The state government declared independence, and Madrid intervened by taking over the entire regional government.
“ Tensions from then on are much less,” says Bartomeus. A number of Catalans are well tired of the struggle for independence. The ideals may not be gone, but the republic has become a distant spot on the horizon.”
The Social Democrats of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez are surprisingly good at polls. He pulled his minister Salvador Illa from the busy post of Health to push the list in Catalonia. A big gamble, but the Social-Democratic PSC is attracting a lot. That is rather cursing in the church of the separatist parties, because the PSC advocates anything but a break with Spain.
“ Make no mistake. There is still a majority in Catalonia who wants a referendum on independence,” says Raul Romeva convincingly. He is serving a 12-year sentence for co-organising the banned Catalan referendum.
We speak outside the prison in Barcelona because he is allowed to pronounce the institution during the day:
“ Independence is irreversible anyway. I havent heard from anyone that hes giving up the fight,” says Romeva. “Weve always said we want to negotiate. The fact that this did not happen is because of the rigidity of Spain. Thats why I was imprisoned in prison.”
Economically, things are bad here. Thanks to corona there are almost no more tourists, hotels are empty and tourist attractions are abandoned. In the famous Park Güell, joggers run by. Theres no one else.
But the economic crisis is hardly the case, says political scientist Bartomeus. Rather, it is the imprisoned Catalan politicians who put their mark on the regional elections. “They are the connection between the then and now. Prisoners. Repression. These are all elements that help separatism.”
Bartomeus shrugged. “In the meantime, the parties know that they have not made any progress politically. The gunpowder has been faded. The struggle for independence is like a hamster running around endlessly in a wheel. Their supporters can not be said that all their energy was in vain. That is the big problem.”