Party Review – the Catalan Green Socialists and Communists (ICV-EUiA), the most vocal opposition to budget cuts

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Barcelona (ACN).- With 10 MPs and 7.37% of the votes obtained in the last Catalan elections, the Catalan Green Socialist and Communist Coalition (ICV-EUiA) has been the most vocal opposition to the Catalan Governmentu2019s austerity measures, despite being the fourth largest party in the 135-seat Catalan Parliament. This political force led by Joan Herrera brings together environmentalists, feminists, civil rights activists, socialists and communists, and is trying to obtain support from those who participated in the numerous anti-budget cut demonstrations of the last two years. In addition, the ICV-EUiA is also trying to obtain the support of the people who participated in the 15-Movement protests, which occupied squares throughout Spain. However, the ICV-EUiA also carries the weight of having been part of the three-party coalition which ran the Catalan Government between 2003 and 2010, during which they controlled the Catalan Police and Housing policies. The ICV-EUiA was the smallest force in the three-party coalition, and it was often seen as the u2018smallest brotheru2019 of the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), which chaired the Government. However, the PSCu2019s deep crisis, with no clear leader in the Catalan Parliament during this last term, has given the ICV-EUiA an opportunity to appear as the most vocal alternative to the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU) running the Catalan Government.

Herrera is using this as his main electoral argument, especially during the two-week official campaign before the 25th November elections, since the ICV-EUiA also coincides with the CiU defending Cataloniau2019s right to self-determination and the organisation of an independence referendum in the next term. However, Joan Herrera refuses to say if he is personally in support of independence, as he says this would depend on the alternatives offered. Traditionally, the ICV-EUiA has been defending a federal Spain, which would recognise its pluri-national nature and thus Cataloniau2019s nationhood. Since the 1.5 million-strong demonstration asking for Cataloniau2019s independence from Spain and considering the reaction from the Spanish establishment, the ICV-EUiA is slowly shifting towards an ambiguous support for independence. However Herrera still recognises that if Spain could offer Catalonia a fair deal, he would consider supporting unity, but he also says that this possibility seems more unlikely every day. Polls indicate that ICV-EUiA might increase its support but they are not conclusive as to what extent, as it seems they could obtain between 10 and 16 MPs.

u2018Iniciativa per Catalunya Verds u2013 Esquerra Unida i Alternativau2019 (ICV-EUiA) is the coalition of one Eco-Socialist party (Iniciativa per Catalunya Verds) and a small coalition of Communist and Left-Wing parties (Esquerra Unida i Alternativa), which also represent the Spanish u2018Izquierda Unidau2019 in Catalonia. The coalition has significantly evolved in the last few decades, from having a light Communist focus in the late 1970s to adding environmentalist stances since the mid 1990s and abandoning purely-Communist references. Since 2009, it has been led by Joan Herrera, born in Barcelona in 1971, who holds a law degree and has a wide range of experience as the partyu2019s spokesperson in the Spanish Parliament. Since the 2010 Catalan elections, Joan Herrera has led the ICV-EUiA in the Catalan Parliament. In the last Catalan elections, the Eco-Socialist coalition lost some 50,000 votes compared to the results obtained four years earlier, when they held 12 seats in the Parliament and obtained 9.5% of the votes. Herrera has raised the ICV-EUiA profile in the Catalan Parliament, despite having only 10 MPs. Profiting from the crisis of the two other left-wing parties, the PSC and the ERC, ICV-EUiA managed to become the fourth largest party in the Catalan chamber and the most vocal opposition to the measures approved by the CiU. In fact, the debates between Herrera and the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas (who is also the CiU candidate in the current elections) have been some of the most tense moments in the last two years.

Making these elections also about the austerity measures adopted and their effects on people

During the official campaign, Joan Herrera is emphasising the traditional ICV-EUiA speech defending public services, social rights and attacking right-wing parties, instead of focusing on the self-determination debate. In fact, in the weeks before the campaignu2019s kick off, the ICV-EUiA had particularly focused on the independence debate, because of Septemberu2019s 1.5 million-people demonstration asking for Cataloniau2019s independence from Spain and the following call for earlier elections. However, Herrera is trying to make these elections also about the austerity measures adopted, their effects on people and alternative measures that could be introduced. Herrera is asking voters to show a u201Cred cardu201D to budget cuts. In this strategy, the ICV-EUiA leader is constantly reminding voters that the CiU has been passing most of its measures with support from the PP, which is currently running the Spanish Government. For instance, Herrera reminds voters that the CiU negotiated its two budgets (for 2011 and 2012) with the PP. In addition, he states that the CiU and the PP u201Cunitedu201D to approve the Labour Market Reform, which has resulted in u201Cthe worst unemployment figuresu201D, as well as a u201Cdrastic increase in povertyu201D. He also accuses the CiU of being u201Cinsensitive towards sufferingu201D for passing measures reducing social protection.

Electoral strategy

ICV-EUiA wants to appear to be the left-wing alternative to the last CiU government. Therefore, Herrera warns voters that casting their ballot for the Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC) u2013 which also has a wealth redistribution programme u2013 will end up supporting Artur Mas and the CiU running the Catalan Government for another term. In fact, the ERC is a likely ally for the CiU in pushing for the organisation of an independence referendum. The ICV-EUiA would also join this group pushing for the referendum, but in any case it would vote for the CiU economic measures. Besides, in order to attract former PSC voters, the ICV-EUiA is attacking the Socialists for not being committed enough to their left-wing values. Herrera said in a recent campaign rally that the PSC is part of the u201CEuropean Troikau201D which is imposing austerity measures and budget cuts. Therefore, according to him, the ICV-EUiA is the only viable u201Creal left-wing alternativeu201D to the CiU and the PP. Herrera is asking for the concentration of the left-wing vote, in order to have greater strength in the Catalan Parliament.

Proposing a u201Cgreen revolutionu201D, alternative taxation and increased social spending

Herrera is proposing a ten-point commitment, most of which refer to its economic and social measures. The first one is to adopt u201Ca fairer taxationu201D system, in order to make u201Cthe powerfulu201D and u201Crichu201D pay higher taxes. Herrera stated that in France, u201Cthe richu201D are demonstrating but in Catalonia, those attending the demonstrations are u201Cthe users of public services.u201D He continues by adding that in France, u201Ctwo thirds of the revenue comes from the richestu201D; in Catalonia the share is u201Czerou201D. The ICV-EUiA would reintroduce Inheritance Tax and increase it beyond previous levels (the CIU almost suppressed this tax). Herrera would also create a tax on the largest fortunes and on bank deposits, and he would modify VAT. He would also create a tax on nuclear energy and polluting substances, and a fee for road transportation of goods. The ICV-EUiA would raise fuel and car circulation taxes. In total, Herrera states that this fiscal reform would bring in 2.2 billion euros per year.

With this additional money, the ICV-EUiA would create u201Ca citizenu2019s minimum wageu201D to avoid social exclusion and poverty, increasing the coverage of the current Minimum Insertion Income (PIRMI). They would also reform the housing legislation in order to retroactively implement the non-recourse debt. They are also proposing to stop all evictions (not only those most in need as it is being approved). The ICV-EUiA would also offer publicly-owned flats to rent at a lower price. Regarding healthcare, the ICV-EUiA would eliminate the drug prescription fee, which is u201Cuselessu201D according to Herrera. They would also reduce waiting list times in the Catalan Public Health System and they would improve working conditions for health professionals, which are among the worst in Europe. Regarding education, the ICV-EUiA would reduce the ratio of students per classroom, give lunch grants again to families in need and increase the public services offered to children between 0 and 3 years old. He would also reduce university fees to the levels they were two years ago. In addition, the ICV-EUiA would stop the privatisation of public companies and services, such as the water supply of Greater Barcelona (ATLL). The ICV-EUiA would also invest in a better short-distance train network and railway for goods transportation.

Herrera proposes a u201Cgreen revolutionu201D for Catalonia, which he says would create 100,000 new jobs. 40,000 of these jobs would come from the adaptation of the current buildings to make them more energy-efficient. 20,000 jobs would be created in the renewable energy industry and 20,000 others in ecological agriculture and biomass for energy. Finally, the remaining 20,000 would be indirect jobs. According to Herrera, being environmentally-friendly means saving money and being more efficient. It also means u201Cmodernity, innovation and freedom by not depending on oilu201D.

No to u2018Euro-vegasu2019 and transparency

The ICV-EUiA has been particularly vocal in defending the agricultural park of the Baix Llobregat County, located in the heart of Barcelonau2019s Metropolitan Area. In fact, it is the largest agricultural space located within a metropolitan area in Europe, occupying more than 3,000 hectares. On part of this land, located next to Barcelona El Prat Airport, the Catalan Government wanted to build u2018Euro-Vegasu2019, Sheldon Adelsonu2019s mega casino resort for Europe, which could stretch to half the size of Las Vegas in the mid-term. In the end, this project will move to Madrid and the ICV-EUiA is particularly proud to have joined the citizensu2019 movement against it.

The ICV-EUiA has denounced the facilities given to Sheldon Adelson to bring this project to Catalonia. Now it is asking for greater transparency, the creation of a public register for lobbies, with all the information to be public. In the next term, the ICV-EUiA also wants to retake the investigation parliamentary committees made into some scandals, which might prove corruption cases.

The ICV-EUiA supports the self-determination process

Finally, the ICV-EUiAu2019s last electoral argument, which was the loudest one in September but the quietest during the campaign, is to support Catalansu2019 right to decide on their future as a people. Herrera promised to give u201Ceverythingu201D to make the self-determination referendum a reality. However, he refuses to enter into what he considers u201Ca war of identitiesu201D between Catalan and Spanish nationalists. In fact, the ICV-EUiA traditionally defends a federal and pluri-national Spain, which would recognise Cataloniau2019s nationhood. Now, Herrera explains that many members and supporters of the ICV-EUiA would back Cataloniau2019s independence from Spain, but others would not. According to Herrera, in this sense, the ICV-EUiA is now the party most similar to Cataloniau2019s social reality. Herrera himself remains ambiguous and refuses to say what he would vote in such a referendum. u201CIt would depend on the circumstances and the questionu201D, he says, and therefore depends on what the alternatives to independence are. For Herrera, if the Spanish establishment showed the desire to reach a comfortable understanding on both parts, he would vote one thing, but if Spain does not change the current status quo, he would vote for the opposite.