The Catalan High Court of Justice’s (TSJC) decision to keep February 14th as election date, reserving the right to call off the elections until February 8th - merely five days before the elections - was a corollary (though regrettably a provisional one) for a legislature which, since the Catalan independence movement’s surprising victory on December 21st 2017, has been carefully watched over by the judiciary.
Over the last three years we have witnessed the judicial branch take over Catalan politics, and the disappearance of the separation of powers, essential in any democratic society: the Spanish Supreme and Constitutional Courts’ interventions in Carles Puigdemont’s, Jordi Sánchez’s and Jordi Turull’s candidacies for president; Catalan president Quim Torra’s removal from office due to a banner asking for the Catalan political prisoners to be freed; an unusual and suspicious intercession in the Catalan electoral calendar; and yesterday, Bernat Solé’s ban from holding public office and exercising any public or administrative duties for a period of one year, due to his actions as mayor of Agramunt in the October 1st Catalan referendum.
Not only has the Catalan autonomy been submitted to an insufferable and painful suffocation by the Spanish Government - a practice as old as the hills- but the judiciary also has assumed a key role in the harassment of the Catalan independence movement, carefully watching any political moves and finally taking over the Catalan government’s powers in the electoral process. It has created a climate of legal uncertainty for voters and political parties alike, unacceptable in any democratic process. It is almost as if the establishment wished to prove that whether in Madrid or Barcelona, its power is absolute. Is it not perplexing that not even the most imaginative lawyers are able to comprehend the Chamber for Contentious Administrative Proceedings’ decision?
It is no longer a matter of whether the elections will be celebrated on February 14th, in March or on May 30th, as all parties - with the exception of the Catalan Socialists (PSC) - had agreed on, due to the evolution of the pandemic. Indeed, the Covid-19 data is still very bad, and the scenario of a high percentage of abstentions due to the pandemic is not a mirage. The Spanish government should stop making a fool of itself with surveys such as the latest by the Center for Sociological Research (CIS), in which the Catalan Socialists’ numbers were grossly inflated. What is now in play, and has been for far too many years, is the Spanish separation of powers. An invisible yet essential line in all democratic societies has been crossed: judges no longer stay out of politics and an imperious need for patriotic unity is preached all over the country.
Why do the judges reserve their right to call off the elections until February 8th? Does it mean they will act based on polling expectations? Given that the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ) and its leader, Carlos Lesmes - which by the way has an excellent relationship with the judges of the Catalan High Court - is on war footing against Pedro Sánchez and Pablo Iglesias, does this have anything to do with it? Are we witnessing a judiciary match being played on several fronts, like a game of American pool, with several losers and winners, both in Barcelona and Madrid?
Three final things to consider: an accord between the Catalan parties and the Catalan Socialists to agree on an election date would be most beneficial. Secondly: it is preferable to modify the decree currently nullified by the High Court, rather than persist in this unyielding stubbornness. Lastly, exhausted by countless internal conflicts the Catalan pro-independence parties have barely any energy left for conflicts with the Spanish government. The only thing one hears on days such as yesterday is a heap of press statements and of clichés.