Mapping the Catalan vote


Last December election in Catalonia was not a common one, and neither were its results. For the first time, in a Parliament of 135 members, the centre-right, pro-unionist Citizens party (Ciutadans – C’s) came top winning 36 seats.

Two of the pro-independence parties came next. Together for Catalonia (Junts per Catalunya - JxCat), the party led by ousted president Carles Puigdemont, took 34 seats and Catalan Republican Left (Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya – ERC) won 32.

The vote was called by the Spanish president, Mariano Rajoy, although it is usually the task of the Catalan president. It was celebrated on the 21st of December, nearly three months after the 1st of October independence referendum, banned by supporters of the union, and two years before the term of office end.

Since Catalonia’s October’s unilateral declaration of independence, the Spanish government maintained direct rule over the region. Two leaders of pro-independence parties couldn’t run the electoral campaign in Catalonia neither to attend last week’s constitution of Parliament.

Carles Puigdemont (JxCat) is in self-exile in Belgium with other four former Ministers and Oriol Junqueras (ERC), deposed vice-president, is in jail since November. Seven other ousted Catalan Ministers were also jailed, although six of them where released in early December. Two pro-independence activists also remain in prison.

Winner party per county

The election was more tied than it seems in the geographical map above. In Catalonia, voters chose their representatives to the parliamentary chamber with a proportional system. Each party gets a number of seats according to the votes it received in each of the four Catalan provincial constituencies. Parliament is then to elect the executive leader, the Catalan president.

The result was unequal around Catalonia, as is shown in the cartogram below where squares are adjusted to county population.

While the Citizens party (C’s) won in fewer, more populated, urban counties like Barcelona, Tarragona and its surrounding areas; Together for Catalonia (JxCat) and Catalan Republican Left (ERC) prevailed in more counties, but less densely populated ones.

JxCat was first in 668 municipalities, ERC in 142 and C’s in 135. However, the orange party was first in the 10th biggest Catalan cities and some other of the most populated ones in more rural areas, such as Lleida and Figueras. JxCat and ERC took some of the smaller neighbouring towns surrounding Barcelona, besides nearly all villages and small towns.

To dig into the results, you can hover over the municipalities in the next cartogram and discover the percentage vote of each party that got parliamentary seats.

Despite the big picture, the division has more details. Although the Citizens party won both in Barcelona and Tarragona, it was stronger in the later. There it achieved more than one third of the votes (36%), than in the Barcelonès, where it had a quarter of them (26%).

Together for Catalonia achieved higher voting rates in the counties where it won. For example, it got more than half of the votes in Pla de l’Estany (51%).

The three parties that were first in some counties are represented next. The darker the colour, the higher their voting rate.

Citizens party (C's) % vote
Together for Catalonia (JxCat) % vote
Catalan Republican Left (ERC) % vote

The vote as an independence poll

For many, this election was a plebiscite on regional independence. That is why media and politicians grouped the votes by parties who support the Catalan republic and refuse the Spanish government control of the region and vice versa.

A 47.5% of the votes was for the pro-independence parties Together for Catalonia – JxCat (21.7%), Catalan Republican Left – ERC (21.4%) and Popular Unity Candidacy – CUP (4.5%). The pro-union parties achieved a 43.5% of the votes: Citizens – C’s (25.4%), Catalan Socialist Party – PSC (13.9%) and People’s Party – PP (4.2%).

That was equivalent to 70 seats, a majority in the Catalan Parliament, for pro-independence (34 for JxCat, 32 for ERC and 4 for CUP). Pro-union got 57 seats (36 for C’s, 17 for PSC and 4 for PP).

Catalonia in Common (CatComú), with a 7.5% of the votes and 8 seats, hasn’t aligned with either side, so it is not counted.

Pro-union parties won in 7 counties, including the 3 most populated ones, but only achieved more than half of the votes in 3 of them. Pro-independence parties won in the 42 less populated ones but achieved higher percentages, above half of the votes in 33 counties.

The first cartogram below shows in which counties pro-independence or pro-union won. The darkness of the colours is adjusted to the percentage difference between both blocs. Pla de l'Estany was the county with a highest percentage of pro-independence vote compared to pro-union (68 difference points). Aran got the highest difference in the other direction (30 points more favorable to pro-union).

The second cartogram shows the change since the last election of 2015, whether the difference between both blocs has moved now towards a more pro-independence or more pro-union vote.

In most of the counties the difference between blocs has moved towards unionist vote, either because pro-union candidacies increased their voters more than pro-independence did or because pro-independence support dropped more than pro-union.

The highest change towards pro-union was in Alt Empordà (6 points) and Barcelonès (5 points), while change towards pro-independence vote only grow in some southern counties and one on the Pyrenees.

In a municipal level, some more detail can be appreciated. While in the cities surrounding Barcelona, pro-union vote won, in the Catalan capital pro-independence parties got a highest percentage (2 points more). Compared to 2015, the difference between blocs in the city has moved 6.5 points towards unionism.

Among the cities with more than 10,000 inhabitants, the ones with pro-independence move are in the South near Ebre river (the highest shift was in Deltebre, 5.7 points to pro-independence). Sant Cugat del Vallès was the first in the opposite direction, it moved 9 points to a pro-union vote, although support is still 18 points higher for pro-independence.