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The Provincial Electoral Commission has banned Barcelona City Council from lighting the fronts of municipal buildings and public fountains in yellow during the election period, the speaker of PP (Popular Party) in the council has said, Alberto Fernández.

The council had chosen such lighting to show its solidarity with the imprisoned members of the Catalan government and independence movement leaders.

Translation: We ask the Electoral Commission for [Barcelona mayor] Ada Colau to remove the yellow lighting from public fountains and building to maintain neutrality during the election period. Enough with putting Barcelona at the service of independence.

The Electoral Commission's decision accepts the PP's appeal, believing that the initiative is an attack against the council's obligation to neutrality.

"Violation of neutrality"

Fernández argued in a press conference this Wednesday that the lighting in the fountains violates the city council's neutrality and represents an "aim by Ada Colau's government to support the independence movement and not to defend rights".

The Electoral Commission's decision also bans lighting public buildings in yellow during the election period, something which has not yet happened, but which was being planned. The City Council now has 24 hours if it wishes to present an appeal.

The commission says that the lighting "attacks the obligation of neutrality which all public administrations have during the election period", neutrality which allows freedom and equality in the right to vote to be guaranteed.

The City Council has lit up in yellow some twenty fountains around the city since Friday following a proposal from the Demòcrata (Democratic) party. The proposal was approved with support from BComú (Barcelona in Common) and ERC (Catalan Republican Left), with CUP (Popular Unity Candidacy) abstaining and Cs (Citizens), PSC (Socialists' Party of Catalonia) and PP voting against.

The commission's decision says that based on the debate over the law it seemed not to be "a simple demonstration of solidarity but support for a determined political proposal". They note that freedom of expression is more limited for public entities, because they have to maintain their neutrality.

The City Council has argued against PP's complaint saying that the lighting was an exercise in freedom of expression and doesn't have any partisan interest. They claimed it was an expression of solidarity with the families of the prisoners and a request for those in prison to be able to exercise their right to take part in the elections on the same terms as the other candidates.

Colau's "scorn"

Fernández said that Colau "has once again put the City Council at the service of independence, violating the obligated political neutrality of a public institution", with a decision not shared by all parties in the council.

"Colau doesn't only scorn all us Catalans in Barcelona who feel Spanish, but is infringing election law and violating the obliged political neutrality of a public institution," he said.

The Electoral Commission resolved on Sunday that the City Hall had to remove the banner calling for the "release [of] political prisoners" from their balcony after a complaint from Cs. The City Hall acceded despite not agreeing with the arguments and continuing to call for the prisoners' release.

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