Polls show Catalan Socialists running close behind ERC

Pre-election polls show a tight race between pro-independence ERC & Socialists in Catalonia. Graphic: El Periódico
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Voter preference surveys in Catalonia in the run-up to the 28th April general elections are showing a surprisingly tight race between the pro-indendence ERC (Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya) and the Catalan Socialists Party (PSC-PSOE), indicating a possible rebound after years of poor election performances in Catalonia for the regional affiliate of the national Socialist party (PSOE).

According to the most recent survey by the GESOP polling organization for the newspaper El Periódico, each of the two parties could win around 14 of the 48 seats in Spain’s national Congress allotted among Catalonia’s four provinces: Barcelona, Girona, Lleida and Tarragona. According to the polls, the ERC stands to increase the number of seats it holds in Congress from nine in the last legislative session to 14-15, while the PSC’s share of seats within the national PSOE grouping in Congress could double from the seven Catalan Socialists seated in the last legislature to 13-14 after 28th April.

Although the pre-election scenario remains highly volatile, other polls project a similar outcome, with the Spanish government’s own CIS Macro-Barometer for March giving the ERC as many as 17-18 seats in the upcoming Congress, with the PSC projected to come second in the balloting with 12-14 seats.

If the polling results hold, that level of performance for the PSC would mark a substantial turnaround in the Catalan Socialists’ fortunes at the ballot box. Over the past decade, the PSOE’s regional affiliate has suffered a virtual hemorrhaging of support in Catalonia amidst increased public support for a referendum on independence from Spain, spurred primarily by the efforts of the ERC and its pro-independence ally PDeCat (formerly, Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya).

In 2008, the PSC won 25 seats in Congress, but three years later the number of seats it controlled within the Socialist party parliamentary group fell to 14, then further to eight seats after 2015 general elections and then just seven following the general elections of 2016.

According to analysts, the ERC surge to the pole position among Catalonia’s pro-independence parties shows a voter shift toward the more moderate stance vis a vis independence taken by ERC general secretary Oriol Junqueras and away from the strategy of confrontation with Spain’s central government promoted by former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont of the PDeCat. Junqueras is currently standing trial in Madrid over charges stemming from his role in the illegal 1st October 2017 independence referendum n Catalonia; Puigdemont fled the country to avoid facing charges for his role in the referendum.

The Junts per Catalunya coalition supported by PDeCat and Puigdemont stands to see its number of seats in Congress diminished from eight in the last legislature to just four or five after the upcoming election, according to the GESOP poll.

While the ERC seems to be taking votes from PDeCat, the PSC appears to be benefiting from a sharp drop in support among Catalan voters for the Podemos-backed En Comú Podem coalition, which could see the number of seats it contributes to the Unidas Podemos group in Congress fall from 12 in the last legislative session to four or five after the balloting on 28th April.

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