The Catalan elections this Sunday have confirmed the worst omens for the Popular Party and for its leader, Pablo Casado, with the scrutiny already advanced. For the first time in elections since its inception in 2013, Vox, the far-right formation with which the popular have been temporizing for two years in their messages and thanks to which they govern in communities and municipalities, has surpassed in votes and seats the PP. It has happened in Catalonia, one of the most complicated places for the popular in the last decade but in which the national leader of the party, Pablo Casado, turned from his victory in the primaries of 2018.
PSC wins and ERC and Junts fight for second position with 50% scrutinized
With about 80% of the votes counted, Vox makes its debut in the Parliament, entering as the fourth force in Catalonia, with 11 deputies. The PP, with the worst result in its history, is instead relegated as the party with the least support from the new hemicycle, with only three deputies, one less than the four it achieved in 2017.
Victim of the division of the Spanish right into three parties –PP, Vox and Ciudadanos–, the president of the popular has been lurching for more than two years, with constant turns at times to get closer to the postulates of the extreme right and, in others, staging a supposed moderation to compete with the party of Inés Arrimadas. That double game also occurred during the Catalan campaign in which Casado threw the rest to support his candidate, Alejandro Fernández, traveling to all Catalan provinces and grabbing media attention with interviews on radio and television almost daily. With that hyperactivity, Casado assumed in the first person the result of this Sunday, so the blow that has been for his party that has been surpassed by Vox at the polls directly threatens his leadership.
The leader of the PP accumulates two years of successive electoral defeats, with the exception of the absolute majority reinforced in Galicia in July, although on that occasion the victory was not by Casado but was attributed to the profile of Alberto Núñez Feijóo, more moderate than the of the national president of the popular and who has always tried to distance himself from the national leadership of his party. As they did with previous debacles, it is to be expected that barons like Feijóo himself - who is considered as the internal counterweight to Casado, and who can boast of being the only regional president of the party that governs with an absolute majority -, the Andalusian president, Juan Manuel Moreno Bonilla, or the Castilian and Leonese Alfonso Fernández Mañueco, assert their institutional power and again ask the national leader of their party for explanations and demand a readjustment in their strategy or a change of course.
The popular ones are not in Catalonia the "leader of constitutionalism", as Casado sentenced in the last rally of the campaign. What's more, the PP is relegated as the fifth force in the non-nationalist spectrum, behind PSC, Ciudadanos, En Comú Podem and Vox.
Against Vox and also against Bárcenas
The Catalan campaign was the first in which the PP president fought hand-to-hand against the extreme right, after staging his break with Vox in October, during the failed motion of censure presented by Abascal's party to Pedro Sánchez and in which the popular voted 'no' after a very harsh speech by Casado against the extreme right. In recent days he had tried to differentiate himself from Vox, rejecting "divisive and social engineering" projects. "We do not believe in a one-color Spain, but rather diverse, structured, united and plural," he said on Friday.
Although Wednesday marks the two-year anniversary of the so-called photo of Colón, which brought together the leaders of PP, Vox and Ciudadanos - who later agreed on regional and municipal governments -, Casado acknowledges that this image of unity of action only These government pacts remain because, as he has said, "never again" will he place his party within a "bloc". "We like autonomous Spain, harmony, and seny so Catalan and so Spanish. "" We don't have to overreact, "he added.
The campaign of the last two weeks had turned out to be the most complicated for Casado since his victory in the 2018 primaries. The threat of Vox, whose surprise, confirmed this Sunday, was ventured into practically all the polls, were joined by the revelations by Luis Bárcenas on the corrupt past of the party of which he was treasurer known in full campaign and at start, last Monday, of the trial on illegal financing –The so-called box B– of the conservative formation.
Trying to justify the bad result of this Sunday, Casado has attributed all those setbacks in the Catalan campaign to a premeditated strategy of the left. In his opinion, in recent weeks the PP has been the victim of "all the foul play that only the left knows how to do." "They have tried by land, sea and air to boycott the project defended by Alejandro Fernández," said the president of the popular on Friday in Barcelona, at the campaign closing rally.
According to his theory, the growth of Vox is due to the supposed "clamp" between the extreme right and the PSOE of Pedro Sánchez, an alliance "of extremist forces" that drowns the "center", where Casado locates the PP, and that It was evidenced in the vote of the Government decree on European funds on January 28, in the Congress of Deputies, when the party of Santiago Abascal abstained and allowed the Executive to carry out its initiative despite the 'no' of PP and Citizens , but also of ERC, partner of PSOE and United We Can in other votes such as the investiture of Sánchez or the approval of the Budgets.
Similar messages on immigration or against squatters
In the context of the right divided into three - PP, Vox and Ciudadanos - Casado has moved in recent weeks between the moderation that he has tried to defend in all electoral acts in order to attract the electorate of his other rival and the Once a member, Ciudadanos - at the beginning of the Genoa 13 campaign came to speculate with the possibility of obtaining more votes than the party of Inés Arrimadas-, and the staging of the most radical PP to compete with Vox, with which the popular have shared messages such as those referring to the fight against immigration or against squatters.
In the Catalan campaign, the popular leader left this last task of 'bad cop' in the hands of the president of the Community of Madrid, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, who traveled to Catalonia on two occasions, displaying an incendiary speech there - "The dream of independence is a nightmare and we must get Catalonia out of this crime ", said wednesday- and even one of his internal rivals, the export voice of the popular in Congress Cayetana Álvarez de Toledo, who for the first time after his dismissal in August by Casado himself reappeared last week in a match act accompanying the candidate for the Generalitat, Alejandro Fernández, and together with one of the founders of Vox, the former deputy of the PP Alejo Vidal-Quadras.
The interventions of both leaders and the efforts of Casado have not been enough since, with his strategy, the leader of the PP has not managed to stop Vox, which this Sunday has become the leading force among the three Spanish rights in Catalonia .