There is no single word that sums up the sensation of shame and disrepute attached to Spain's Central Electoral Commission, which on Thursday saw the little prestige that it has blown to pieces when it was revealed that one of its members, the administrative law professor at Barcelona's Pompeu Fabra University, Andrés Betancor, was on the payroll of the Ciudadanos (Cs) party. To put it bluntly: in the morning he was paid to prepare the complaints made by Cs to the electoral commission, and in the afternoon he sat on the commission and defended the position of the party led by Albert Rivera and Inés Arrimadas. A few years ago, perhaps, the case would have had a lower profile, in line with the lower profile of the electoral body. Now, certainly, things are different, as this purely administrative organ has ended up transforming itself into a kind of pre-judicial tribunal that has taken major decisions affecting Spanish public life and has greatly penalized the Catalan pro-independence parties through rulings that have stripped away rights from many of its leaders. From presidents Quim Torra and Carles Puigdemont to MEPs Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí, to name just four.
In the numerous legal complaints that have been announced, not only in Spain but also in Belgium, we'll see if criminal and illegal acts are found. We'll see. But it is undeniable that the stench given off by a system that is ever more rotten and further removed from any hint of justice is suffocating. Betancor's action against the independence movement has been fierce and the decisions taken by the Central Electoral Commission between 2017 and 2019, the years in which he was a member, must be rolled back to what they could have been. We'll see what is said by all those who defended the electoral body's decisions and have greatly harmed the independence cause. Ciudadanos, always quick to chase down any microphone in order to occupy media space, have chosen to remain silent, while Inés Arrimadas has urgently canceled pre-arranged interviews for personal reasons. It must be very serious when hiding is the only path open to a party which with insults and the fear of Spain breaking up has more than enough to sustain it.
The Pompeu Fabra University informs that its rector, Jaume Casals, has expressed his personal concern at the possibility that a professor might have carried out "an ethically reprehensible action". At the same time, he has ordered the opening of an internal investigation to clarify if his actions could be subject to sanction by the university. Meanwhile, at the Central Electoral Commission, silence. A clamorous silence. We'll see what ends up happening with the disqualification of president Quim Torra from public office, since Betancor was present at the origin and Cs were behind many of the allegations made against him in the case of the yellow ribbons. A case, that of Torra, which continues on its course in the Supreme Court but has a clear correspondence with the Central Electoral Commission and the rulings that it ended up making, which deprived him of his MP status in the Catalan Parliament, although he retains the position of president.
If anyone felt just a little embarrassment, they would hasten to avoid even greater disrepute before the Spanish electoral body's performance becomes the topic on everyone's lips in the EU courts and the European Parliament. That is undoubtedly a lot to ask as there are always those who think it is best to die with your boots on.