By Sancho Pérez

 

Catalonia has had democratic regional elections after the Franco dictatorship since 1980. Eleven elections which will be counted as twelve next month, since Catalans have got a new opportunity for democracy the following 21st of December.

The circumstances of this electoral scenario are very different from the previous ones. The Catalan society seems to be more polarised or divided than ever before and the territorial and political crisis has to be solved as soon as possible.

In this new electoral framework with crucial results for the Spanish and the Catalan coexistence, polls have already started to make their predictions for the big event. However, taking a broader perspective, last polls, such as the Brexit, the United States Presidential Election or the Greek Referendum ones, have been proved to fail in predicting last plebiscites’ results.

One of the reasons of its failure might be that those polls do not take into consideration the change in the political context that we may be facing up. In the global framework, some authors talk about the crisis or disappearance of the representative democracy[1] while the amount of European effective parties that are vying for the power has recently increased.[2]

Therefore, this post will try to outline the historical-electoral background next Catalonian election will have by analysing last regional elections and comparing the trends to the global or European ones. To this purpose, some of the main indicators of electoral party systems are presented, applying them to the Catalonian scene.

The first graph[3] explains the competitiveness of the party system. Each bar represents the difference between the two most-voted parties in each electoral process, weighed in percentages of votes. Then, the most competitiveness is presented in 2003 while the less appears in 2015. In consequence, the party system has experienced an astonishing decrease of the competitiveness since 2003.

On the one hand, this may be explained by the 2010 reinforcement of the polarization[4] of the Catalan parties among the nationalistic cleavage, after the rejection of the Catalonia Statute by the Spanish Constitutional Court incited by the Popular Party. As a result, parties might have started to seek for a determined profile of voter in the extremes of the cleavage instead of looking for the average voter. However, this indicator is more useful for classical bipartisan party systems and maybe we are in front of a different one.

The second graph shows the concentration of the electoral party system. Each bar represents the sum of the two most-voted political parties’ amount of votes in each election. It is clearly proved the progressive drop of concentration since 1984. The 2015 Election changed the trend because of the new pro-independence coalition between Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya y Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya under the name of Junts pel Sí, therefore counted as a single party.

The fall of the concentration is another sign of the crisis of the classical party system model. Nevertheless, we cannot conclude if this is a temporal crisis or a definitive breakdown that will lead us to a different political party system. There is some evidence, such as the recent creation of political parties with electoral relevance, but time is compulsory for determining if we have changed to a new party system or not.

The third graph is based on the concept of party fragmentation. Specifically, it analyses the number of effective parties in each election in order to outline the degree of cohesion or fragmentation of the party system. The rate is calculated from the percentage of votes each party got upon the definition of Laakso and Tageepera[5] and it is also one of the ways for determining the type of party system.

The graph shows that the party fragmentation has been progressively increasing since 1984 until 2012. Again, the tendency is broken in because of the pro-independence coalition that was appointed before. The increasing trend can be explained as the loss of trust in the classical parties or as the loss of power of the parties in the government upon globalization and institutional integration. However, this should not be considered as a particular phenomenon, but as a European inclination towards fragmentation.[6] In fact, fragmentation in the occidental representative democracies in Europe is scoring its maximum historical results.

The last graph explains the total volatility of the party system which is calculated by adding the positive difference of votes of each party between two consecutive elections and dividing the outcome by two. The results should be regarded as an approximation because some parties were dissociated or allied with others in some of the elections, what complicates the reckoning of the volatility.

 

The tendency shows a drop of the total volatility until 2006 when it starts to grow again. The election that changes the trend is the 2010 election, as it happened with the competitiveness. The rejection of the Statute is a factor to be considered, but it is not the only one. The number of parties that compete in 2010 is the highest of all the electoral process held in Catalonia.

Moreover, this should not be considered as an isolated fact. The loyal voter, the one who never changes their vote, is also disappearing in the European context, where the volatility has also grown, as Peter Mair shows.[7]

In conclusion, the next Catalonian election will have to face not only a divided society but also an electoral background with specific characteristics that differ from the ones presented in its recent electoral history. However, this does not mean that the Catalan party system has changed. We will need a long run perspective to conclude that, regarding how the independence cleavage is modified in the next years.

What is clear is that there are some trends in the Catalan Party System such as an increasing fragmentation and volatility that will difficult electoral polls accuracy, being part of a European context in which the classical parameters of electoral democracy are still changing.

 

REFERENCES

 

Notes:

[1] Mair, P. (2015). Gobernando el vacío: la banalización de la democracia oocidental. Alianza Editorial.

[2] Piedras de Papel (25/05/2017). Elecciones en tiempos difíciles. Eldiario.es. Available in: http://www.eldiario.es/piedrasdepapel/Elecciones-tiempos-dificiles_6_647495268.html

[3] The four graphs have been elaborated by the author. The data has been gathered from: Departamento de Gobernación, Administraciones Públicas y Vivienda. Datos electorales de todas las convocatorias. Generalitat de Catalunya. Available in: http://governacio.gencat.cat/es/pgov_ambits_d_actuacio/pgov_eleccions/pgov_dades_electorals/index.html

[4] Piedras de Papel (14/11/2013). ¿Cataluña polarizada?. Eldiario.es. Available in: http://www.eldiario.es/piedrasdepapel/Cataluna-polarizada_6_196740329.html

[5] More information about the electoral indicators: Ocaña, F.A., & Oñate, P. (1999). Índices e indicadores del sistema electoral y del sistema de partidos. Una propuesta informática para su cálculo. Reis, 223- 245.

[6] Piedras de Papel (25/05/2017). Elecciones en tiempos difíciles. Eldiario.es. Available in: http://www.eldiario.es/piedrasdepapel/Elecciones-tiempos-dificiles_6_647495268.html

[7] Mair, P. (2015). Gobernando el vacío: la banalización de la democracia oocidental. Alianza Editorial.