Catalonia goes to the polls on Sunday 25 November in what promises to be an important election not only for the region but also for the whole of Spain.
Artur Mas, leader of the centre-right, Convergència i Unió (CiU) and incumbent president of the region, is expected to win a 40-seat majority in the 135-member regional parliament but probably not enough do without the votes of smaller parties. His naturally allies will be those championing Catalonian independence.
The left-wing Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) is campaigning hard for autonomy from the central government and could become the second largest party in parliament. After several dismal elections during the economic boom, it could now regain the seats it lost, bringing it back from its present 10 to about 20. If the socialist Partit dels Socialistes de Catalunya (PSC) and the conservative Partit Popular de Catalunya (PP), which is closely allied with the central government, put in a weak showing then the ECR, led by Oriol Junqueras, will be in a strong position in parliament.
An increase in the ERC share of the vote will make calls for a referendum on self determination for Catalonia, which Mas supports, all the louder. Feelings against the central government have been growing since the large national day rally in Barcelona in September, followed by the refusal of the central government to consider financial reforms for the transfer of funds between the region and the state.
However under the terms of the Spanish constitution a referendum can only be called by the central government, not a region, and it must be voted on by all Spaniards.
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