Rajoy's Catalan Losses Signal Struggle to Survive December Vote

What Next for Catalonia?
  • PP suffered worst result in Catalan election in 23 years
  • Ciudadanos eclipsed PP to seize anti-independence voters

If Catalonia’s vote on independence yielded no clear-cut result, there was at least an obvious loser: the People’s Party of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

The PP trailed in fifth place in Sunday’s regional election with 8.5 percent of the vote and lost almost half its representatives in the Catalan assembly, its delegation cut to 11 lawmakers from 19.

With Spanish general elections less than three months away, Rajoy’s party is facing up to its worst result in 23 years in one of Spain’s most populous and wealthy regions. Among voters opposed to Catalan independence and in favor of pro-business policies, Rajoy’s natural base, the PP was eclipsed by Ciudadanos, an emerging force on the national scene aiming to drain votes away from the prime minister in December’s national election.

“The result was unequivocally terrible for the PP,” said Angel Talavera, an analyst at Oxford Economics in London, by phone. “They were never going to be a major player in the Catalan elections but the result is a very bad sign for the general elections.”

Xavier Garcia Albiol, Rajoy’s candidate for the Catalan presidency, said the party would have to reflect on the reasons for its losses. As the PP support slumped, Ciudadanos added almost half a million votes winning 25 seats compared with nine in 2012.

“The results were not satisfactory for us and they force us to reflect on what happened and what mistakes we made,” Albiol said in an interview after the results came in. ‘‘We are now in a full analysis phase.”

Socialist Support

Rajoy’s main rival in December’s election, Socialist Opposition Leader Pedro Sanchez, saw his party’s support hold up better. The Catalan Socialist Party won 12.7 percent of the vote, down from 14.4 percent in 2012, coming in third behind Ciudadanos and the main separatist group.

What’s more, Sanchez seized the initiative after the result came in, challenging Mas’s victory claims while Rajoy hunkered down in Madrid working out his next move.

“Very presidential image from Pedro Sanchez in his press conference,” Julio Cesar Herrero, dean of the communication faculty at Camilo Jose Cela University in Madrid until this month, said on his twitter feed.

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