So is this it, crunch day for Cataluña as it decides its future relationship with Spain? Well no, not really. We are treated to yet another early election called, as in the recent case of Galicia, for opportunistic reasons. Which is not to say that today's elections won't be something of a turning point, it's just that it would not be fair to judge the results purely as a verdict on the future status of Cataluña. But such is the game being played by regional president Artur Mas that nobody can be sure that anything will happen in terms of a future sovereignty vote, even if he gets his desired overall majority. That majority is what this election is really about, Mas decided to try and ride the wave of nationalist sentiment surrounding the huge march in Barcelona on September 11th to try and get the majority government that he couldn't get last time around in 2010.
Mas and his party, Convergència i Unió (CiU), have never been in favour of Catalan independence, and the language he has used in the campaign to refer to the national question has been deliberately ambiguous. It's not hard to foresee that he could disappoint an awful lot of people if he gets his desired result. Not the for the first time, and it's not that easy to feel much sympathy for those who allow a bit of demagogic, flag waving, populist tub thumping rhetoric to triumph over the reality of their own experience. Mas runs a right wing government that cuts welfare services at the same time as reducing taxes for the better off. To then plead that there is no money to pay for essential services because of Spain seems blatantly ridiculous but you can hardly blame him for doing so given that it seems to work?
The campaign against the austerity measures so enthusiastically embraced by Mas and company has been effectively destroyed by his suceess in turning it into an issue of Cataluña versus Spain. Some polls have shown Mas getting the majority he wants and others have shown him falling short, there is no consistent picture. What does seem evident is that there will be a significant collapse in support for the PSC, Catalan wing of the PSOE. Although this will also undoubtedly be attributed to nationalist issues as well it really forms part of a broader national pattern. This is all terribly flattering to the governing Partido Popular, some polls have even suggested the extraordinary outcome of the PP becoming the second biggest party in a region where its supporters have occasionally been able to fit in the largest model in the SEAT range.
As in Galicia, where the PP lost a significant number of votes but won a larger majority on a smaller share, the collapse in the socialist vote makes the PP look stronger because of their ability to mobilise more of their core vote. For the other parties it looks like there will be some revival for Esquerra Republicana (ERC), who have resolved their attempts to combine left wing and nationalist politics in a faintly ridiculous way; they now consider themselves to be left wing in the national parliament and nationalist when playing at home. Another beneficiary of disenchanted left wing votes could be Iniciativa per Catalunya, although much of the traditional socialist vote looks destined for abstention The results, as usual, will not be known before 20:00 Madrid time. The results widget, courtesy of El País.