Independence supporters win absolute majority in Chamber of Commerce

Candidates backed by the ANC and the CCN off to a good start, obtaining 32 of the 40 seats up for grabs

ÀLEX FONT MANTÉ / PAULA SOLANAS / LEANDRE IBAR

A surprising upset during elections for the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce. The slate backed by the Catalan National Assembly and the Cercle Català de Negocis has managed to win the election with an absolute majority. The representatives of this candidature, the most well-known of which is businessman Joan Canadell, have won 32 of the 40 seats at stake. The other three candidates, theoretically favourites to win, only managed to win 9 between the three of them. The second candidate to obtain the most seats was Enric Crous (who won four), followed by Carles Tusquets (with three). Finally, the 50a50 slate, which seeks to promote the participation of women in business institutions, obtained one seat. The last candidate, Ramon Masià, was unable to get a single representative.

The results have yet to be confirmed, since there are 955 ballots which have been set aside due to possible irregularities. The electronic voting system will now be examined to see if they are in fact suspect, or whether they ought to be included. The definitive results won’t be released until next Monday.

The results mean that there is no doubt that those in favour of independence will control the most important Chamber of Commerce in Catalonia. 40 out of a total of 60 seats on the institution’s board were being voted on in these elections. The remaining twenty were directly awarded to the large corporations which made the biggest contributions to the institution (who are allocated 14) and to the employers’ organisations Foment and Pimec (which share 6). There was a possibility that these twenty seats would end up changing the outcome of the election, but after having secured 31 seats —including that belonging to Bonpreu, who announced its support for both the ANC and Crous—, the pro-independence candidates look certain to control the institution. One of its most well-known members is actor Joel Joan, who won a seat through his production company Arriska SL.

Speaking to ARA, Joan Canadell, the businessman who headed the ANC and CCN’s candidacy, declared that "the Chamber has made a 180-degree turn" and that it will stop "looking towards the oligarchy and the big Madrid corporations". Canadell’s slate mobilized the ANC’s volunteers, who managed to convince enough companies and self-employed voters to support the pro-independence candidates, leading them to obtain an outright majority. According to Canadell, "The ANC volunteers have done a great job of explaining our position to business people who were eligible to vote".

Speaking of the future, Canadell went on to say: "We have to find a way to ensure that the Chamber of Commerce is not an organisation unsympathetic towards the business community". He added that, "Now a new time begins, one in which we’ll try to understand the organisation’s problems and those facing entrepreneurs. We want to connect with the business community".

Commenting on the victory, Elisenda Paluzie [president of the ANC] declared: "We detected certain weaknesses in October 2017 and not being represented in the Chamber of Commerce was a hindrance". She added: "We found there weren’t enough business people to contradict the fear-mongering about independence. On the contrary, we saw that they were applying pressure". "The chamber will defend SMEs, the self-employed and Catalonia’s business sector. We will help Catalan companies as a whole and we will put the Chamber at their service without questioning the decisions made democratically by the people of Catalonia", she concluded.

The biggest losers in the election were Carles Tusquets (considered the continuity candidate after many years with Miquel Valls as the president of the Chamber), Enric Crous (who allied himself with the employers’ organisation Pimec during his election campaign) and Ramon Masià (who had been a member of the Chamber of Commerce for many years).

Voter turnout in the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce’s elections was higher than ever, with a participation that has more than doubled compared with previous elections. More than 17,000 companies and self-employed individuals voted, many more than the approximately 7,000 who participated in the most recent election. Nonetheless, the turnout represents just 4% of those who were eligible to vote, a fraction of the total.

Yesterday, when voters were able to vote in person, the turnout was higher than usual. Nevertheless, one of the factors which explains the increase in the turnout is the fact that electronic voting has been allowed for the first time. Voters were able to vote electronically between Thursday last week and nine o’clock this Tuesday morning. Face-to-face voting, on the other hand, took place this Wednesday.

THE KEYS TO THE VOTE

1. Why is what happened in the Chamber’s election important?

It is an unprecedented shakeup in Catalan business institutions. Until now, elections in chambers of commerce had failed to arouse any enthusiasm among Catalan business people and the self-employed despite the important influence these institutions wield, especially in the case of the Barcelona Chamber, the largest and the most important of them all. In the latest election, supporters of independence have turned out in force, leading to a surprising outcome which no one had foreseen.


2. Who stood for the presidency of the Barcelona Chamber?

In chronological order, Ramon Masià, Carles Tusquets and Enric Crous announced their intention to stand for election. Then came candidates backed by the ANC, linked to the independence movement, and next 50a50, a group which backs women’s participation in business institutions.


3. Why did the ANC not put forward a candidate for president?

Because the Chamber’s electoral system does not work that way. The 40 seats on the board are voted first and then a president is chosen from among them. Crous, for example, did not win the seat for which he stood, and he was unable to be president, even with results like those the ANC obtained. Independence supporters announced that they would stand for election, but they would only reveal who its candidate for president was once it was sure which of its candidates had been elected. Nevertheless, their most visible leader is Joan Canadell, who won his seat and, who therefore, could become the Chamber’s new president.

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