It is, perhaps, the question I’ve been asked the most in recent weeks: what do you think will happen with the 14th February Catalan elections, will they be held? And, for weeks now, I have been giving the same answer: the government will postpone them. The reason, beyond the partisan interests that different groups have, has a logic to it: when you look at the public health forecasts, when there's little more than a month until polling day and 5.6 million voters registered on the electoral roll to be mobilized, holding the elections would be reckless and, moreover, would be opposed by the whole medical community.
This is, nevertheless, the government's dilemma at the moment as it, out of necessity, shifts its stance to admit to the public that it wasn't fully true that everything had been organized to overcome any contingency that might arise. The current data on the evolution of the pandemic is bad and will get worse, but this should not surprise us much as even before Christmas it was being said that what we are seeing would end up happening and there was no decision to take more radical measures, such as a full stay-at-home lockdown.
The government is letting the hours go by until it makes the announcement, but it is impossible to find a minister who openly backs the holding of the election. Neither on the record nor off the record. Another issue is who will end up having to front up for the decision which, I insist, is not pleasant. There has also been an unforeseen development arising from the designation of Salvador Illa as the Catalan Socialists' presidential candidate: the Spanish government's opinion poll committee, led by Iván Redondo, wants the elections now because it believes "the Illa effect" is real, and the PSC could climb to the top of the Catalan party standings. The Catalan Socialists already spoke of this last Friday and the displaced candidate Miquel Iceta reiterated it this Tuesday with his usual irony: the schools will be open and we will close the polling stations; you can go skiing, go to work and take the metro and you can't go and vote? The PSC will battle to maintain the 14th February date as its whole strategy is based on the candidate effect and on taking advantage of the impact it believes their new list leader has right at present.
The PSC's opposition to the postponement of the election would be in marked contrast to its view last spring in Galicia and the Basque Country, where there was an agreement by all parliamentary parties to stop the clock on the elections called for April 2nd and which ended up being held on July 12th. Faced with this great political agreement and with the citizens confined to their homes, the Central Electoral Commission limited itself to certifying the decision. To giving its blessing. What would happen if a different criteria were applied in Catalonia? Would the electoral body respect the Catalan government's agreement or would it introduce other criteria such as, for example, political disagreement on an issue like the election date which affects the area of fundamental rights?
The PSOE, which has its networks and has access to resources that the Catalan government parties do not have in the Spanish electoral body, may already know the answer. What can the electoral commission not do, given that it ended up carrying away Catalan president Quim Torra after forcing him to take down a banner?
PS: One last electoral note, in this case relative to Futbol Club Barcelona, also facing presidential elections. Drawing analogies between the two processes would only serve to try and stop the Barça club's vote. There is no comparison between the two in terms of the calendar (January 24th versus February 14th) and, above all, the volume of people to be mobilized. We are talking about the question of whether, based on previous elections, a maximum of 45,000 people can go to the polls, with more than half of those able to do so in the eleven cities where there are polling stations. For those who have to travel to vote there is a very simple option: set up extra polling stations in large cities to minimize the number of people who do not have a polling station in their municipality. For example, in Barça supporters' clubs with club officials appointed to manage the voting tables. And for the hundreds or few thousand who would still be left out, it could be made possible for them to vote at the nearest of these centres. If a club like Barça were not able to set up such an operation, it would mean that the club was in a much worse state than it really is.