Read in Catalan

In the midst of the electoral storm, of the heated phrases and accusations that are often uttered during the campaign, many of which are put away again after the two-week tempest in which anything goes, the image of the Catalan political prisoners at the Palau Robert carrying only a sign that said "Amnesty" has a soothing quality. Also, hopeful and, perhaps, who knows, reassuring. The leadership of Òmnium Cultural brought them all together, the prisoners who are in the JxCat party and those who are in ERC, putting aside quarrels and reproaches, and getting down to harsh reality: they all returned last night to sleep in their prison cells, in this unjust situation of captivity which has normalized prison and exile as if they were the most natural things in the world, when they are not. Carme Forcadell, Quim Forn, Raül Romeva, Jordi Sànchez, Jordi Cuixart, Oriol Junqueras, Josep Rull, Jordi Turull and Dolors Bassa, united in a performance that should be not a photo but rather the unity of political action that has been missing for so much of this Catalan legislature.

This fourth day of the election campaign placed us, for at least a few minutes, in the pro-independence oasis, and served to remind us that the Spanish state's repression knows no limits of party nor ideology but is transversal against the whole pro-independence movement. Hence the importance of the date with the ballot boxes on February 14th in which the independence movement has far more in play than just the composition of the next government, the specific parliamentary majority or a president of Catalonia.

Much more than all this is at stake, and it hangs there, ethereal and intangible, in the thick atmosphere found in any campaign, and the electorate is already beginning to grasp it: what condition has Catalonia been left in? Will it resist the onslaught aiming to homogenise and harmonize it with the rest of the Spanish autonomies? Because this is what the 14th February is all about, about identity and survival, and the presence in Catalonia of the ex-minister Salvador Illa as the head on the PSC electoral poster and the flagbearer of Pedro Sánchez, today turned into the icon of unionism: it is an attempt to reverse the steps taken by Catalan society in the last decade in its quest for more freedom, and it counts on the possibility of a fall in the pro-independence vote due to the coronavirus pandemic.

As the Catalan campaign gets underway, there is a novelty compared to the long pre-campaign: according to the opinion polls, three parties are vying for victory: ERC (Republican Left), JxCat (Together for Catalonia) and the PSC-PSOE (Socialists). All three could finish first, second or third, which indicates that the final loyalty of the electorate and the management of abstention in the short time remaining will be key to the outcome. The current technical tie does not necessarily mean that the photo now offered by the surveys will end up being reflected in the ballot box, but that any of the three parties could open up a significant difference with their competitors in these twelve days until the voting centres open.

This situation will strain the campaign and gradually take us away from photos like this Monday's at the Palau Robert. Although, depending on how Catalans vote, the two majority pro-independence parties may have to take the image out of the drawer, in which they will put it for the next few days, on election night.