Thursday, October 2, 2014

Catalan authorities appeal against the suspension of self-determination vote but stop direct preparations

The Catalan Government and Parliament announced on Tuesday that they will file allegations against the Constitutional Court's temporary suspension of the Catalan Law on Consultation Votes and the decree calling the 9th of November's self-determination consultation vote. Such a temporary suspension, which entered into force this Tuesday morning, was approved by the Court on Monday evening in an urgent manner, just 5 hours after the Spanish Government had filed its appeals, questioning the separation of powers. 
The temporary suspension of the law and the decree does not mean they are illegal, but simply a cautionary measure whose duration can be as long as it takes the Court to reach a definitive decision on the issue. Catalan authorities have announced they will use their right to appeal the Constitutional Court's action, but at the same time the Catalan Government has also decided to "temporarily" suspend the institutional campaign and all the direct preparations to prepare for the 9th of November's consultation vote, therefore obeying the Court's decision. 
The Spokesperson for the Catalan Government and Minister for the Presidency, Francesc Homs, explained that such a decision was made "to prevent public employees from being backed into a corner", as the Spanish authorities could directly persecute them. The left-wing parties clearly supporting independence – ERC and CUP – wanted to disobey the Court's temporary verdict, since they consider it a politicised and manipulated body that can prevail above the Catalan people's democratic mandate and legitimacy. However, the governing and centre-right coalition CiU as well as the greens and post-communist coalition ICV-EUiA want to continue with the vote's preparations as far as it is legally possible but without openly disobeying the Constitutional Court. Moreover, thousands of people demonstrated on Tuesday evening in front of Catalonia's town halls against the Constitutional Court's decision, despite the heavy rainfall during the afternoon and evening. This demonstration was organised by the civil society associations that were behind the massive rallies of September 2012, 2013 and 2014, the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) and Òmnium Cultural. Carrying umbrellas, thousands of people gathered in front of Barcelona's City Council as well as in front of all the 947 existing town halls. In fact, 92% of them voted in the last few days for motions supporting November's self-determination consultation vote.


The Catalan authorities do not agree with the Constitutional Court's temporary suspension of the law and decree behind the 9th of November's consultation vote on Catalonia's political future. Therefore they will use their right to appeal it and will file their allegations to try to reverse the Court's decision. However, at the same time, since the temporary suspension already entered into force this Tuesday morning, the Catalan Government has also decided to suspend the institutional campaign to inform citizens about the consultation vote as well as any direct actions for its preparation; to prevent "public employees from being backed into a corner".

The Catalan Government "temporarily" suspends direct preparations in order to protect civil servants

The Catalan Government's civil servants would be those who would have to carry out all the direct preparations in order to have everything ready to hold the 9th of November vote. In order to avoid putting public employs in a difficult position, the Catalan Executive decided to "temporary suspend" these actions, hoping that the Constitutional Court will come to a quick decision on the matter. "It is not the Catalan Government putting itself at risk, but it would be them [public employees] who would be put at risk" and "we cannot be so selfish", stated the Minister for the Presidency, Francesc Homs, who is also one of the leaders of the Liberal CDC (the largest party within the governing CiU). In fact, the Spanish authorities could individually persecute Catalan civil servants if they were carrying out actions that disobey the Constitutional Court's decision.

In addition, the Catalan Parliament will also file its own allegations against the Constitutional Court's decision, which has been confirmed by the Chamber's President Núria de Gispert. The Parliament will formally ask the Court to lift the temporary suspension against the Catalan law on Consultation Votes, which was approved with 80% support 11 days ago. Such a law, which regulates non-binding consultation votes, has already been provided for in the 2006 Catalan Statue of Autonomy, which is Catalonia's main law after the Constitution. In 2010, the Constitutional Court trimmed the Statute of Autonomy, considerably modifying essential elements and creating a great institutional crisis given that the law had been voted for by the Catalan people through a binding referendum in 2006. However, in 2010, the Constitutional Court validated the creation of a Catalan Law on Consultation Votes, which was finally approved on the 19th of September, 2014. De Gispert, who is a member of the Christian-Democrat UDC (the smallest party within the governing centre-right coalition CiU) emphasised that the Court can review the temporary suspension "at any time" and she urged this Madrid-based body to do so in the coming days.


Reactions from the other parties supporting November's vote

The left-wing Catalan independence party ERC, which shares a parliamentary stability agreement with the governing CiU, questioned the Court's "legitimacy" in "deciding what it is deciding. The Secretary General of the social-democrat party, Marta Rovira, stated that "we will continue to defend the democratic and legal mandate that we have", referring to the results of the last Catalan Parliament elections held in November 2012. Back then, 80% of the elected MPs ran in the elections pledging their support for Catalonia's right to self-determination and backing a "legal" vote on such an issue.

The Catalan green socialist and post-communist coalition ICV-EUiA, which supports November's vote, was in favour of continuing to develop the Law on Consultation Votes and the decree "wherever legally and politically possible", which means not directly disobeying the Constitutional Court by carrying out direct preparations, but continuing to make decisions (such as approving minor regulations) that do not have to be directly implemented and can be shelved. Furthermore, the ICV National Coordinator, Dolors Camats, stressed that Catalan authorities "cannot put third people at risk", referring to public employees.

The alternative left and radical independence party CUP criticised the Catalan Government for having decided to temporarily suspend the institutional campaign and the direct preparation for November's vote without having consulted the political parties supporting such a vote, like the CUP. The MP Quim Arrufat warned against the "unilateral decisions" made within the group of forces supporting the 9th of November consultation vote. "The lack of unity" within this group "would be the worst thing" for Catalonia's self-determination process, stated Arrufat.

Reactions from the parties opposing the vote

The Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), which supports Catalonia's self-determination but whose leadership is against November's vote (obeying the Spanish Socialist Party, PSOE), welcomed the temporary suspension of direct preparations. According to the PSC Spokesperson, Maurici Lucena, such a decision made by the Catalan authorities shows "common sense". Lucena hoped that "a new political phase" can be launched "on the 10th of November", in which the People's Party and the Spanish Government could present an attractive offer to Catalans and in which the Catalan authorities could sit and talk about this offer.

The conservative and Spanish nationalist People's Party (PP), which runs the Spanish Government, announced that it "will verify" that "everything linked to the [Constitutional Court's] suspension" is actually stopped, despite the Catalan authorities' announcements. Furthermore, the PP Spokesperson, Enric Millo, accused the Catalan Government of "making the others face the problems", saying that the Catalan Executive is asking the citizens to protest and defend November's vote.

Finally, the populist and Spanish nationalist party Ciutadans (C's), stated that the Catalan Government could commit an offense "if it spends a single euro more" in the preparations for the consultation vote. Furthermore, the C's President, Albert Rivera, justified the Constitutional Court's urgency in making Monday's decision as it had been "defending the Rule of Law" in Spain. Furthermore, he accused the Catalan President, Artur Mas, of "breaking a country, the democratic laws and the Constitution" by having signed the decree calling citizens to participate in a non-binding consultation vote on Catalonia's potential independence from Spain.

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