The election campaign to oust the pro-independence movement has begun with an unequivocal message that was sent 600 kilometres from Barcelona, in the Congress of Deputies: PSOE, Podemos and Vox pushing through the decree regulating the 140 billion euros in European funds that will arrive in Spain from Brussels. Artful words will be used to hide this reality and sleight of hand employed to explain that Vox did nothing more than abstain, but the only truth that matters is that without this miraculous abstention of the far right the royal decree would have been sent back to the Spanish government in search of new wording and a new parliamentary passage. For those who laughed at the offer made with regard to Catalonia by Vox's secretary general, Javier Ortega Smith, the reality is stubborn: before the prospect of a new pro-independence president, anyone else.
It is clear, then, that 2019's operation Colau in Barcelona could be repeated in Catalonia with Salvador Illa, and in place of the three city councillors of Manuel Valls's group who were willing to act as one to make her mayor, there will now be, in the event that it is arithmetically possible, a group of Vox MPs to send the former Spanish health minister sailing into the Palau de la Generalitat. Because there's no longer any sense in responses like "I don’t want their votes" or "I will never do a deal with them", as, deep down, such replies don’t mean anything. The key question to be answered is whether a candidate will agree to form a hypothetical government based on these votes, or not. If they are willing or not to accept Vox votes. How is this done? Well, it's very simple. In the case just seen in the Congress of Deputies, withdrawing the decree before allowing it to be passed with the votes of Vox. In the case of the investiture of a new president in the Catalan Parliament, abandon it if the Vox deputies are the ones in the middle. That is the way to have credibility; the opposite is words that sink to the bottom of the sea.
Day zero of the campaign, the traditional day of the postering session, has also shown us the limits of the mobilization for the February 14th elections: heavy use of digital platforms and few, very few members of the public in the nonexistent spectator stands. Yes, just like a football game. It will be hard to add energy to the campaign even if there is much more hinging on the results than just a change of government. Because the goal of the Spanish unionists is to create a different country, de-Catalanize it and put it in tune with Spain. More than enough reasons to mobilize the electorate that does not agree with an electoral promise that could end up being government policy and one that seeks to erase the country from the map.
From the mobilization that may or may not be induced in the next two weeks will come the turnout level at the polls on 14th February. At present, pollsters estimate a turnout figure of around 60%, when at the last elections, on December 21st, 2017, it was 79.01%. We would be talking about twenty per cent fewer votes, making prediction difficult for the pollsters since the effect of adding political abstention to the abstention arising from a pandemic has never been seen, except in last year's Basque and Galician elections. Political abstention, we have had, and at a significant level in the 80s and 90s: a 59.37% turnout in 1988, and 54.87% in 1992, in times of Pujol hegemony.
One last piece of news from day zero of the campaign: this Friday, that the Catalan political prisoners with the exception of Carme Forcadell are to leave prison. They will all be present in the campaign, thanks to the concession of an open prison regime, if the Spanish justice system does not prevent it with some decision of its own. It is good news which, while having nothing to do with their freedom or an amnesty, serves to partially normalize an unacceptable situation.