Monday, October 6, 2014

Catalonia walks towards November's independence vote while Madrid continues vetoing it



On Monday, the Spanish Government appealed against the election of the Control Commission in charge of supervising Catalonia's consultation vote on independence, a measure already announced on Friday. 
In addition, the Director of Spain's Public Prosecution Office, who is directly appointed by and reports to the Spanish Justice Minister, Eduardo Torres-Dulce has announced that they will act "without any doubt" against "any offense" committed "by any person" in relation to Catalonia's self-determination process, insisting that they are concentrating rigorously on this issue. Meanwhile, the Control Commission has designated the 7 territorial bodies that will manage the voter register for foreign-nationals living in Catalonia. 

However, these territorial sub-commissions have not been created yet, since their definitive creation has to be validated by the Catalan Government and it has not done so, probably as it is waiting to hear from the Constitutional Court. Additionally, on Monday the Catalan Parliament filed the challenge procedure against 2 of the 12 members of the Constitutional Court for being biased because of their links to the People's Party (PP) and their positions of extreme Spanish nationalism. Furthermore, over the weekend, there was a lot of action from political parties, municipalities and civil society stressing their commitment towards November's consultation vote. The Christian-Democrat party UDC, which is part of the governing centre-right two-party coalition CiU, has decided it will defend the creation of a Catalan state but it will not obligate its members to share a party stance about whether it should be independent from or confederated with Spain. 

On top of this, 920 out of the 947 Catalonia's town halls have approved motions backing November's vote which were delivered by over 800 mayors to the Catalan President on Saturday. Furthermore, the Catalan Government has launched a campaign informing citizens about the Spanish authorities' ban on November's vote, using images from the institutional campaign for the consultation vote, which had to be cancelled after the Constitutional Court's temporary suspension. Lastly, the civil society organisations behind the massive pro-independence demonstrations, the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) and Òmnium Cultural, kicked off their campaign this weekend for November's consultation vote. They started it in one of the few towns governed by the PP in Catalonia: Badalona, a working-class city located in Greater Barcelona.


The Spanish Government appeals against the Catalonia's Control Commission on consultation votes

The legal services of the Spanish Executive have filed an appeal at the Constitutional Court against the election of the Control Commission supervising consultation votes in Catalonia. The Spanish Government believes that, following the temporary suspension of the law on which this Commission is based (a decision adopted last Monday by the Constitutional Court), the Catalan Parliament cannot elect its members and the President of the Catalan Government cannot ratify this election and create the Commission. However, the legal services of the Catalan Parliament consider that electing the Commission does not go against the temporary suspension of the law, since the law has not been declared illegal and this election does not have any direct effects. They base their advice on a previous decision from the Constitutional Court, which authorised the continuation of approving minor rules of a temporary suspended law if they did not have direct effects. However, Spanish authorities are of a different opinion and believe that any action or measure deriving from the temporary suspended law and decree cannot be approved or have to be cancelled, even if they do not require direct implementation of the law.

The Spanish Public Prosecution Office sends threats against self-determination

T
Eduardo Torres Dulce
he Director of Spain's Public Prosecution Office, who is directly appointed by and reports back to the Spanish Justice Minister, stated on Monday that they are being vigilant and are "carefully" analysing all action relating to Catalonia's self-determination vote. Eduardo Torres-Dulce stressed that, "without any doubt", they will persecute "any person" who might have committed "an offense" regarding this process. Torres-Dulce added that they will act "not in advance and not afterwards, but at the moment that an offense is committed". This statement sounded like a threat to Catalan public representatives, including the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, and the leaders of the political parties supporting November's consultation vote on self-determination.

Control Commission designates territorial bodies to register foreign-national voters

Also on Monday, the Control Commission that was appointed by the Catalan Parliament on Wednesday and ratified by the Catalan President on Thursday, designated the 7 territorial sub-commissions that will have to register foreign-nationals voters throughout Catalonia. Despite this designation, the sub-commissions have not been officially created, since they have to be validated by the Catalan Government. Building a register of foreign-nationals could be interpreted as a direct implementation of the law and decree that have been temporarily suspended by the Constitutional Court, and therefore the Catalan Government will avoid making such a decision while it is not backed by its legal services. The decree stipulated that foreign-nationals had to register between the 1st and the 7th of October in order to vote in the 9th of November's consultation. However, such a registration period will have to be modified if the 7 territorial sub-commissions are finally created and start registering people.

Catalan Parliament challenges 2 of the 12 Constitutional Court members

After announcing it and approving it on Thursday evening, on Monday the Catalan Parliament filed a formal challenge against 2 of its 12 members, challenging their impartiality given their close links to the People's Party (PP), which runs the Spanish Government, and their strong Spanish nationalism. The Catalan Parliament requested that the Court President, Francisco Pérez de los Cobos, and one of the two members drafting the report on the Spanish Government's appeals against the self-determination vote, Pedro José González-Trevijano, be removed from the debate and the final decision. Pérez de los Cobos was a member of the PP until 2011, while appointed member of the Court in 2010. Furthermore, he published a book with xenophobic and offensive anti-Catalan statements. In addition, González-Trevijano, has collaborated with the PP's political think tank (called FAES) and defended the preservation of the religious space hosting Franco's remains, which was built between 1940 and 1958 by war prisoners through slave labour and where every year neo-Nazi groups pay tribute to the Spanish dictator.

The Catalan Government launched an ad announcing the Spanish Government's ban

On Saturday, the Catalan Government launched a TV ad informing citizens that the Spanish Government had appealed against the 9th of November's vote and that the Constitutional Court had temporarily suspended the campaign. The ad is an indirect way of continuing to inform citizens about the 9th of November's vote without challenging the Court's suspension. In fact, last Tuesday the Catalan Government cancelled the institutional campaign informing citizens about such a vote, which had been launched two days in advance. Now, the new ad uses the first seconds of the previous ad, which is suddenly interrupted while a voiceover reads a white text on a black screen informing viewers about the suspension. At the end, the ad states that Catalan citizens can call the public information phone line 012 for further details. The Catalan Government based this new ad on Article 82 of the Law on Audiovisual Communication, which allows ads to inform about "justified general interest" issues.

920 of the 947 municipalities in Catalonia back November's consultation vote

More than 800 Mayors from throughout Catalonia meeting with the Catalan President to hand in the motions backing November's consultation vote (by J. Bedmar)
Almost all the town halls in Catalonia have given their explicit support to Catalans' right to hold a self-determination vote to decide on their collective future, through motions voted in the last 2 weeks. 920 out of the 947 existing town halls (97%) back the self-determination process. On Saturday more than 800 mayors participated in a public event in Barcelona to demonstrate this institutional support for November's vote. They first gathered in Barcelona's Town Hall, hosted by the Catalan capital's Mayor. Then, they all walked towards the Catalan Government's palace, called the Generalitat, located on the other side of the Sant Jaume Square. Once there, they delivered the motions of support to the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas. Through this action, Catalan municipalities wanted to show that they are part of the self-determination process and that they are willing to work for it, a reminder that this movement extends far beyond the Catalan Government and a few political leaders,;it is rooted throughout the whole of Catalonia.

The Christian-Democrats do not officially oppose independence, but do not back it either

This weekend, the Christian-Democrat party UDC, which explicitly back November's self-determination vote, held a national council to decide on their official stance regarding independence from Spain. UDC is the smallest party within the centre-right pro-Catalan state coalition CiU that runs the Catalan Government. UDC's leadership advocates the creation of a Catalan State but one confederated with the rest of Spain and therefore not fully independent. This has been the party's stance on the issue for decades. However, in the last two years, several leading members of UDC have begun to call for full independence. In the end, the Christian-Democrats have decided to support the creation of a Catalan state and do not impose a party stance on independence, giving its members the freedom to choose between full independence and confederation. The Catalan green socialist and post-communist coalition ICV-EUiA, which also backs November's vote, made the same decision 9 days ago.

Civil society campaign for the self-determination vote kicks off

Finally, on Saturday, the civil society associations that organised the massive pro-independence demonstrations in 2012, 2013 and 2014 kicked off their own campaign for the 9th of November's consultation vote, which was presented in September. The Catalan National Assembly (ANC) and Òmnium Cultural are undertaking a massive door-to-door campaign, with 100,000 volunteers to ask Catalans about what kind of country they would like to have. The campaign started on Saturday in Badalona, a working-class city within Greater Barcelona that is being run by the PP. In fact, Badalona's City Council is by far the largest public body run by the PP in Catalonia. 2,500 volunteers participated in Saturday's kickoff, knocking at the doors of citizens' homes. Then, the campaign carried on in 60 other cities and towns throughout Catalonia. In the coming weeks, they plan to visit all the existing homes in Catalonia.


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