This Tuesday afternoon saw the second deadline from the Central Electoral Commission to Catalan president Quim Torra come and go. Torra has again decided to not remove the yellow loops and banners, symbols of support for the Catalan prisoners and exiles, that hang outside many Catalan government buildings. His decision is intended as a demonstration of freedom of expression.
That said, to not compromise civil servants or force them to commit disobedience, he has opted to allow each building to make its own decision. To remove the symbols or leave them. He told his cabinet of the decision earlier today. He explained he wishes to "protect the civil servants and give them freedom to act as they believe [they should] if they receive orders from the electoral board".
During the meeting, the president made it clear that the decision for the government palace was his and his alone, that in no case is it an instruction to civil servants and that he has given no order to his ministers. On the other hand, the cabinet has agreed to give a coordinated response.
That means, according to spokesperson Elsa Artadi, that the 13 ministries will take the same decision. Torra has asked the Catalan ombudsman to study the case and make a recommendation as to what they should do. The president, Artadi explained, will follow their advice, "whether we like it or not". The Catalan government's legal service has sent a letter to the Central Electoral Commission communicating these decisions.
The president argues in the letter that the wide range of ownership of the buildings (from public bodies to private companies) and their wide range of uses (including hospitals, research centres, universities, schools, retirement homes, etc) makes it difficult for him to give the necessary orders. To this end he appends the long list of such buildings.
One of the possibilities now is that the commission will instruct the Mossos d'Esquadra (Catalan police) to remove all such symbols. For the government, Artadi said that "in any case, the Mossos will do what they've got to do, without political instructions".
A local electoral commission has ordered the city halls of Girona and Salt, in the north of Catalonia, to remove their own banners and yellow loops following complaints from the PP and Cs. They have been given 48 hours. As for buildings to be used as polling stations, it rules they can remain until 26th April, two days before the election.
Girona's mayor, Marta Madrenas, had previously said that if such an order came they would find "imaginative solutions" to avoid having to obey it.