What next for Catalonia?

Catalan voters will go to the polls on Thursday to decide whether to return the separatists to power or to bring in a pro-unity government, as their region's independence crisis nears its moment of truth.

What next for Catalonia?
Caganer figures - including Puigdemont between Dali and Chewbacca - on display at a Christmas market in Barcelona. Photo: AFP

Lets take a look at the possible outcomes of the December 21st regional vote:

A pro-unity revolt?

Ciudadanos are doing well in opinion polls with Arrimadas at the helm. Photo: AFP

Ciudadanos, a centrist anti-independence party formed in 2006, could win, with its charismatic 36-year-old candidate Ines Arrimadas taking the reins of power in the wealthy region.

Such an outcome would be momentous for Catalonia, where nationalists have dominated since democracy was reinstated in Spain following the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.

Arrimadas has pledged to enter into “dialogue” with her rivals, in a bid to overcome the divisions in Catalan society.   

She has also promised to focus on social problems, which she claims were ignored under axed president Carles Puigdemont.   

A regional government led by Ciudadanos would likely please the ruling conservative Popular Party (PP) in Madrid, which has stopped at nothing to put the brakes on the independence drive.

But ultimately, it could also turn into a national threat to the PP, attracting voters in search of an alternative to the bipartisan politics that have long dominated Spain.

A president in exile?

The ousted leader speaking to a campaign rally in Catalonia on a live feed from Brussels. Photo: AFP

Puigdemont left for Belgium at the end of October. He now faces charges of sedition, rebellion and misuse of public funds over his government's independence drive and could be jailed before his trial.

But in a surreal twist to the crisis, he announced his candidacy from exile, pledging to recover the “dignity” of the Catalan people after being “humiliated” by Madrid.

Victory for Puigdemont would be a blow to Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who deposed him after the Catalan parliament declared independence on October 27th following a banned referendum.

While Spain eventually dropped an international arrest warrant for Puigdemont, he will still be detained if he returns to the country, raising the question of how he might govern should he win.

A leader behind bars?

A poster showing the ERC leader, who remains on remand. Photo: AFP

Oriol Junqueras, deputy president under Puigdemont's deposed leadership, was remanded in custody on November 2nd over his role in the independence bid.

His ERC party has a narrow lead over Ciudadanos in the polls, and should it win, secretary-general Marta Rovira would likely be tasked with running the day-to-day affairs of government.

Rovira, however, also faces the threat of detention.    

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court in Madrid ordered an expansion of a probe to target members — including Rovira — of a “strategic committee” allegedly set up to achieve independence in Catalonia.


With none of the leading candidates expected to win a majority, any one of the winners will need to secure backing from rival parties in order to rule.    

But in an election seen as make-or-break by all the contenders, there is a risk that no one will come forward to support a winner, opening the way to lengthy negotiations, followed by deadlock.

“Even within the independence camp, the formation of a future government will be riddled with complexity,” said Pablo Simon, political science professor at Madrid's Carlos III University.

Any secessionist winner would need the backing of the radical leftist CUP party, which demands immediate, unilateral independence for Catalonia.   

Ciudadanos, meanwhile, would need the Socialists and the PP's support — and even then it might not have a parliamentary majority.

A Socialist compromise?

Could Miquel Iceta of the Catalan socialist party lead a pro-unity coalition? Photo: AFP

“The possibilities of deadlock and fresh elections are very high,” according to political analyst Pepe Fernandez-Albertos of the CSIC think-tank in Madrid.

One way forward, he said, could be for pro-unity parties to rally behind Miquel Iceta, the Socialist candidate.

He is seen as having more potential for dialogue than the others, and he has pledged to seek an amnesty for the secessionist leaders.   

Such an outcome would mirror a solution put in place in the Basque Country, which was crisis-hit for decades, where the Socialist Patxi Lopez led a minority government from 2009 to 2012.

For members


14 Barcelona life hacks that will make you feel like a local

Barcelona is a popular city for foreign residents in Spain thanks to its coastal location, many international companies and great lifestyle. However, navigating life here can take some getting used to, so here are our top Barcelona life hacks to help make things easier for you.

14 Barcelona life hacks that will make you feel like a local
Barcelona life hacks. Image: Michal Jarmoluk / Pixabay

Invest in a good water filter

Barcelona tap water doesn’t taste the best, particularly in the areas around the Old Town such as El Born, the Gothic Quarter, Barceloneta and Raval. The water is also very hard, meaning that it leaves limescale on appliances such as your kettle.

Using a good water filter can improve the taste and make sure that limescale doesn’t build up. It’s also much more economical and healthier than buying bottled water every time you want a drink.

Use the Rodalies trains to get across the city faster

Many people when they first move to Barcelona just use the metro and don’t bother using the Rodalies trains. While it’s not always necessary, for certain journeys it can make getting across the city much faster.

For example, if you need to get from Sant Andreu or Clot to Sants to connect to one of the intercity trains, it’s only two or three stops on the Rodalies, as opposed to more than 10 on the metro, as well as changing to different lines.

Don’t try and get anything important done in August

This is probably true of most of Spain, but if you need to get anything important done, whether official paperwork or renovations on your apartment, don’t try and get them done in August.

The whole city goes on holiday for the month of August, including office personnel, builders and handypeople. If you need to get any of this done, it’s best to get it done before the holidays or to wait until September.  

Don’t buy drinks from sellers on the beach or in the park

You’ll find many people selling drinks on the city’s beaches and in the main Ciutadella Park. While it can be tempting to buy these, especially when it’s so hot, you need to be aware that these cans of drinks are often stored inside drains or under manhole covers, meaning that they’re not the cleanest.

A few years ago, El País took the mojitos sold by hawkers on the beaches to a local lab. The results came back a few days later to show that they contained high levels of fecal matter and bacteria in them.

Barcelona’s Chinese supermarkets are a great source of ingredients

Although you can now find many more foreign ingredients in local supermarkets than you could just a few years ago, there are still many that you may miss from back home, particularly South East Asian and Indian ingredients.

Barcelona has several excellent Chinese supermarkets, where you can find a range of ingredients, everything from sesame oil and Thai curry paste to Indian spices and affordable peanut butter.

Don’t take valuables out with you to certain areas, particularly at night

Unfortunately, bag snatchings and pickpockets are still commonplace in Barcelona. While the thieves mainly target tourists, foreign residents often find that they are targets too.

The trick is to blend in like a local, look like you know where you’re going and don’t take valuables with you to areas such as the Gothic Quarter, Raval or the Rambla, especially at night. Bag snatchings in El Born have also increased in recent years, so keep your wits about you around there too. 

Find your favourite beach outside of the city

Barcelona’s beaches may have been one of your prime reasons for moving here, but you’ll find that you actually prefer the beaches outside of the city.

Overcrowded, dangerous and a lot dirtier than other beaches in the area, the beaches in Barcelona are unfortunately not all that they’re cracked up to be. You’ll often find that after you’ve been for a swim, your valuables will not still be on the sand where you left them. Head just 15 to 20 minutes outside of the city however and you’ll find the beaches are far nicer and safer.

Find a beach outside of the city centre to go to. Photo: makunin /Pixabay

Try to join several different clubs or groups

Barcelona is a very transient city, meaning that people are moving here and leaving all the time. As a result, you’ll often find that most of the friends you made when first moving here have now moved away and you’ll constantly need to make more. If you join several clubs and groups, you’ll find that making new friends all the time is a lot easier. 

Don’t buy a single transport ticket

It’s never really worth buying a single transport ticket in Barcelona, because you’ll end up spending much more money per journey than you would if you bought the T-Casual (10 journeys) or the monthly T-Usual metro card instead.

You can also buy 10-journey bono tickets for the Rodalies trains, which will also save a lot of money if you’re making regular journeys out of the city. 

Try and avoid shopping at Port del Angel on Saturdays

Port del Angel is Barcelona’s main pedestrianised shopping street. While it’s great and has all the high-street fashion shops you want, it can be a nightmare shopping here on Saturdays.

If you do need to shop on a Saturday, try Rambla Catalunya or one of the shopping malls instead, which won’t be so crowded.

Be prepared for festivals and events

Barcelona holds so many festivals and events that it can be hard to keep up. In normal (non-Covid) years, there is one every other week.

Because of this tickets sell out quickly and there are many fun cultural events that you might miss out on. Keep your calendar up to date, so you know what’s going on, and make sure to book tickets for anything you want to see, well in advance. 

Tipping isn’t necessary at all bars and restaurants

Tipping isn’t all that common in Barcelona, unless perhaps if it’s a particularly nice restaurant or if there’s a large group of you that the waiter has had to look after.

You’ll find that it’s not expected either, except maybe at some of the city’s very touristy restaurants.  

READ ALSO: Why do Catalans have a reputation for being stingy?

Do lots of research before renting an apartment and if it sounds too good to be true, then it is

Unfortunately, there are lots of property scams in Barcelona, so try and do as much research as you can beforehand. Never pay money upfront before you’ve seen the property and received the keys.

Also, be aware that many landlords will not return your deposit at the end of your stay.

Many people get around this by not paying the last month’s rent, but this can also make things difficult for the good landlords who may genuinely need to deduct something for damages, so speak with your estate agency on the best thing to do in this situation.

READ ALSO: What you should know about renting an apartment in Barcelona

Hire a gestor or lawyer to help with immigration and tax issues

You’ll save yourself a lot of time and hassle with immigration and tax issues if you hire a professional to help you in Barcelona, where getting a cita previa (appointment) for official matters can often be difficult, in part because these law firms often bulk book them.

However, there are certain processes that you won’t need an immigration lawyer for such as getting a residency certificate if you’re from an EU country or exchanging your green residency certificate for a TIE if you are British and moved here before the end of 2020.

READ ALSO: BREXIT: How to apply for a TIE residency card in Spain