Government promises "safe" elections; opposition remains unconvinced

The majority of parties do not agree with the scenarios in which the Generalitat would cancel the elections

The parties have met to discuss the details of the 14 February elections to the Catalan parliament, the first to be held in a pandemic. Top of the list for the government was reassuring opposition parties that the elections would be safe and that everybody's right to vote would be protected. To do so, it has established a protocol defining what will happen on the election day and the previous weeks. The oppositioin celebrated the meeting, but remained concerned about some aspects which they consider to sill be "unclear".

The Government's main fear is that, as the election date approaches and the pandemic does not subside, some parties will question the possibility of holding the elections and question their legitimacy. The Generalitat is convinced that, unless there is an extreme worsening of the health crisis, there should be no problem in voting by adopting the appropriate measures. Among all the documentation that it has sent to the parties, the most outstanding aspect is a table setting out the scenarios in which the elections can be held and those in which they cannot. Nine scenarios are included and only two would entail postponed elections. The first one, in case of returning to the home confinement of the month of March and April. The second, in the event of a return to severe restriction of social activities in the face of a high risk of "health system collapse". In all other cases, the Government defends that it will be possible to vote safely despite the continued existence of contagion, hospitalisation and various restrictions.

The Generalitat is committed to having everyone vote, including those who are infected and those with close contacts. In fact,  the Government wants to try to get those infected to vote between 8 to 9 pm. The Government also stated it remained open to suggestions from opposition parties and has assured that only through "consensus" will it be possible to take "the best of decisions". Government sources welcomed the "propositive climate" of the meeting.

Uncertainties

The PDECat has not been invited to the meeting, for which it has protested with a letter addressed to the President of the Parliament, Roger Torrent, and the Councillor for External Action, Bernat Solé. The parties in Parliament that were represented at the meeting have committed themselves to collaborate with the Government. However, no opposition party has bought into the scenarios envisaged by the Government to postpone the elections. The leader of the Comuns, Jéssica Albiach, explained that her group saw this as an "important disagreement" and considered that elections should only be suspended in one case: that of an eventual return to home confinement. Vidal Aragonés (CUP) believes that the government has not explained the scenarios "clearly" and Alejandro Fernández (PP) has considered that the information was still "too ambiguous". The latter suspects that the elections could be postponed depending on party interests and not on the sanitary conditions. Ferran Pedret (PSC) has also asked for a commitment that, if they have to be postponed, in no case will it be sine die. Even the MP for JxCat Elsa Artadi, part of the governing coalition, has avoided endorsing the scenarios: "It is the most sensitive issue of all and deserves a monograph". The opposition has also raised other doubts, such as which will be the definitive spaces where votes can be cast and how the voting by time slots proposed by the Government will work.

Reducing spending

There has also been talk of what the election campaign will look like. The PP is asking for only one week, but in this measure it does not have anyone's support; it will continue to be two weeks. The government protocols also deal with the election campaign. There is no desire to reduce the conventional two weeks, but it is proposed that the majority of events be held online and that the kisses, hugs and handshakes typical of rallies be abandoned. Where there is a certain harmony between the parties is in the fact that we will have to reduce electoral expenses. Today, JxCat, the Comuns, the PP and the CUP have already shown themselves ready to send the electoral propaganda jointly and in a single envelope. Some parties spend one million euros every campaign on sending out propaganda.

The parties will meet again periodically. Several parties have also asked that the next meetings be "more operative" and less "protocolary". The elections will be formally convened on December 21. Even so, it won't be until January 15, when a "first evaluation of the epidemiological scenarios of the electoral period" will be made, that we will know whether they can go ahead. From then on there will be a periodic review "every seven days at the most.

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