Catalonia’s political parties voted on Friday to postpone regional elections from Feb. 14 until May 30 due to a recent surge in COVID-19 cases.
Over the past weeks, more than one in every 200 people in Catalonia has tested positive for coronavirus. Nearly 42% of all region’s intensive care units are being used by COVID-19 patients.
Although the number of daily cases has begun to drop since reaching a high on Tuesday, most politicians decided they did not want to risk public health at the polls.
Only the Socialist Party of Catalonia (PSC) voted against the delay.
PSC leader Miquel Iceta told the press that the decision to delay elections until May 30 was not based on scientific criteria. He had suggested moving the vote forward just five weeks.
“Data indicates that the peak of the third wave will be reached on Jan. 19. … Making predictions for May is totally uncertain,” he said.
The Socialist Party recently announced that current Health Minister Salvador Illa will leave his high-profile post to run in the Catalan elections.
A recently poll conducted by GAD3 for La Vanguardia suggests this has given the PSC a major boost in the polls.
“They can delay change, but they can’t stop it,” said Iceta, confident that his party will be able to ride the momentum until May.
Illa has said he will continue acting as the Spanish health minister until the campaign begins, while opposition leader Pablo Casado has repeatedly slammed this decision, saying the country cannot afford a “part-time” health minister during the pandemic.
The Catalan government is currently run by a coalition of pro-independence parties.
The government triggered an election after former Catalan Premier Quim Torra was removed from office for disobedience for refusing to remove separatist symbols from public buildings during 2019 elections.
Before Torra came Carles Puigdemont, who fled to Belgium after holding an illegal independence referendum and subsequently declared independence from Spain.
The GAD3 poll suggests that separatist parties are likely to hold onto their majority. It also found that support for Catalonia seceding from Spain dropped from 45% in September to 43% in January.
In the spring of 2020, several Spanish regions pushed local elections until July due to the epidemiological situation.
Spain’s neighbor Portugal, on the other hand, is still set to hold presidential elections Jan. 24, despite the country entering a full lockdown this week after deaths and infections reached record levels.