Pro-independence Parties Hold Majority in Parliament’s Catalan Bureau

After the opening session, Catalan MPs elected Torrent (ERC) as the new President of the Parliament of Catalonia. He got 65 votes while his rival Espejo-Saavedra (Cs) got only 56. Hence, the Bureau will finally be formed by 4 pro-independence members, including the President of the Parliament, Torrent, and 3 unionists representatives.

Costa (JxCat) and Espejo-Saavedra (Cs) were appointed as second vice-presidents. Costa got 65 votes while Saavedra got 56. Saavedra was already second vice-president of the Parliament’s bureau during the last legislature. This is Costa’s (JxCat) first time in Parliament.

The Parliament also appointed the four remaining posts: the secretaries of the bureau. The four secretaries will be comprised of members from different parties: Eusebi Campdepadrós (JxCat) as first secretary, David Pérez (Catalan Socialists) as the second secretary, Joan García (Ciutadans) as the third secretary, and Alba Vergés (ERC) as the fourth secretary.

The bureau (a key body in Parliament) organises the Parliament’s work and interprets parliamentary procedure. Without a pro-independence majority in the Bureau, the Catalan government would have never been able to hold the past October 1st independence referendum during the last legislature, which ended with the proclamation of the independence of Catalonia a few weeks later.

In this starting legislature, the Bureau will have to decide whether to allow Puigdemont, who is in exile in Brussels, to be invested as the new President of Catalonia from Brussels at a distance, or force him to renounce office.

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The PP Is Willing to Undermine the Formation of a Stable Pro-Independence Government in Catalonia

Despite the poor results obtained in the latest Catalan general elections, 4% of the votes, the PP – which is also the ruling party in Spain – appears willing to unlawfully prevent, by any means, the formation of a stable pro-independence government in Catalonia.

A PP’s spokesperson, Pablo Casado said, “Catalan unionist parties must try to form a constitutionalist government in Catalonia because, though they didn’t get an absolute majority of seats in Parliament, it is still possible.”

Casado also suggested that the Spanish government will use the current judicial situation of numerous pro-independence leaders, who were elected in the latest elections but are in prison, exile, and facing criminal charges, to attempt to undermine the formation of a Catalan pro-independence government.

Up until today, this move would affect Oriol Junqueras (ERC), Jordi Sànchez (JxCat), and Joaquim Forn (JxCat), who are in prison, as well as Carles Puigdmeont (JxCat), Clara Posantí (JxCat), Jordi Puig (ERC), Meritxell Serret (ERC), and Toni Comín (ERC) who are in exile in Belgium.

Nevertheless, even if the Spanish government prevents them from taking office, pro-independence parties would still hold a simple majority of 62 seats in Parliament against the 57 unionists. Thus, the only possibility of forming an alternative unionist government would elude them unless the PP and C’s manage to negotiate with the CeC a leftist party that adamantly opposes them. But if such a unionist coalition were to happen, it would serve to install an authoritarian government that aims to criminalize any pro-independence movements across Catalonia.

A feasible alternative to prevent such a scenario would require by the 8 pro-independence deputies, who are in exile or prison, to renounce office. But this move would likely worsen their judicial situation since this would imply that they could be judged by the Spanish National Court, which is under the control of the Spanish government. Catalan deputies have immunity, and hence, can only be judged by the Spanish Supreme Court, which has proved to be far more neutral and fair than the National one. Whatever final decision pro-independence parties make, it will be soon, as the Parliament of Catalonia will be constituted on January 17th.


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The Myth of the Catalan Silent Majority Was Defeated in the Latest Catalan Elections

Over the past few years, unionist parties together with the Spanish government had been saying that the vast majority of Catalans, who support the unity of Spain, were being silenced by the Catalan ‘separatist’ government. They contended that pro-independence parties always tend to win an absolute majority in general elections because most unionists never participate in Catalan electoral contests due to the fact that they do not identify with Catalan politics.

This was the main reason why the Spanish administration called for snap elections: “To give citizens back their voice.” However, this myth, which has been spread by unionist forces across Europe for years, was debunked in the latest Catalan general elections held this past December 21st, which had the highest turnout in Catalonia’s history: 82%. 

Pro-independence parties (JxCat, ERC, and CUP) not only validated their absolute majority of seats in Parliament (70), but got more than 2 million votes: 100,000 more than in the previous elections held in 2015. As if that were not enough, the support for independence parties grew more in areas traditionally considered unionist.

Despite that the results were clear and showed that most Catalans actually support the independence of Catalonia, unionist parties won’t easily recognize them because the only “mantra” that they have been able to use to fight pro-independence parties was to suggest that “There was a silent majority that supported their cause.” 

To that end, the leader of the major Catalan unionist party Ines Arrimadas (C’s) is now advocating for the independence of Barcelona and Tarragona from Catalonia: so-called “Tabarnia.” According to her, the unionist “silent majority” only remains in Barcelona and Tarragona. That, even though Barcelona’s voters mostly voted for non-unionists parties in the latest elections. This is, therefore, a new “mantra” directed to destabilize the independence movement and bring confrontation to Catalan streets. While this unionist strategy may make some noise on an international level for a while, this will also exasperate an important number of Catalans, including unionists, who may end up supporting the independence of Catalonia.

 

Catalan President Puigdemont

Since the stunning victory of pro-independence parties in the Catalan general elections held on December 21st, the spotlights have been directed at President Puigdemont. His campaign promises to return to Catalonia if he was re-elected, after being in exile in Brussels since last October, opened the door to a historical moment, only comparable to the return of Catalan President Tarradellas to Barcelona on October 23rd, 1977 after being in exile for nearly 38 years, which served to restore the institutions of the Catalan self-government. However, though there are numerous parallels between Tarradellas and Puigdemont, the biggest difference is that Tarradellas made an agreement with Spain prior to his return.

Due to the fact that Puigdemont is coping a national arrest warrant issued by Spain, he is facing the biggest dilemma of his life: Return to Catalonia in order to attend his investiture to become the President of Catalonia and face a possible detention on his arrival, or renounce his investiture and stay in Brussels as the Honorary President instead. This option wouldn’t be risky in the short-term, but after some time the Spanish government may re-activate a European extradition against him, which may succeed.

Puigdemont’s lawyer said, “His only option to become the factual President of Catalonia is to return and face prison.” He added that “Puigdemont should be able to take up the presidency while in prison; yet, it will ultimately depend on the Spanish state which is willing to do everything to smash him. They may find a way to impede him from assuming office.”

Puigdemont’s final decision on his return to Catalonia will be announced over the next month and a half. Until then, all types of speculations will be on the table.

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Catalonia Faces its most Important Democratic Elections

Tomorrow, Catalonia will hold crucial general elections in the form of a binding referendum on independence. Two antagonistic blocks will face off; the unionists and the independentists. The unionists who sacked all the members of the prior Catalan governmentjailed some of them, and imposed a direct rule over Catalonia, expect to win an absolute majority in order to “eradicate” the Catalan pro-independence movement. This may be accomplished by changing the educational system and exerting an absolute control over the Catalan police and public media agencies. On the other hand, the independentists, who unilaterally proclaimed the independence of Catalonia in the aftermath of the independence referendum held last October, also expect to get an absolute majority to restore the prior legitimate government and immediately implement the independence of Catalonia.

Given that the two blocks are irreconcilable, the results of these elections will have an enormous impact on people’s lives. And whatever the results may be, the tension mounted over the past few years will heighten to levels never seen before in a “democracy.”

According to the latest polls, the key to these elections will be the turnout. A turnout higher than 80% would benefit unionists parties since their voters tend to be demobilized. And a lower turnout could give independentists a clear absolute majority which would allow them to unilaterally take further actions towards the factual independence of Catalonia.

Most polls suggest that the turnout will be historical, around 85%. However, they obviate the fact that these elections will be held on a working day (Thursday) for the first time in Catalonia’s history. While some pundits believe that holding elections on a working day will encourage people to vote, others contend that there are tens of thousands of workers who aren’t living in their hometowns. And that the 4 hours work-permission to vote could be insufficient for most of them, which may lower the final turnout. All the doubts will be allayed in only one day, when the final results of the elections will be announced.

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Sixena Art Piece Removed from Museum of Lleida, Catalonia

On Monday, Spain’s militarized police looted 44 art pieces from the Museum of Lleida, where the latest chapter of a long legal dispute over the works between Aragón and Catalonia has been playing out.

The operation, which was orchestrated by the Spanish government, began in the dead of the night and ended at 2 pm. Hundreds of Spanish and Catalan police officers cordoned off numerous streets to prevent large protests in the area. Officers and art specialists from Spain loaded the 44 pieces of art onto a moving van. The Director of the Museum said that the specialists could have damaged some of the pieces due to the speed of the packing. A crowd of hundreds of peaceful protesters unsuccessfully attempted to halt the operation on numerous occasions. A few incidents were reported in nearby streets when the protesters tried to break the police barrage. The Catalan police responded by hitting all of them indiscriminately with their batons.

Last week, Spanish Culture Minister, Íñigo Méndez de Vigo, ordered the pieces to be moved from Catalonia to Aragón while Spain still controls the Catalan administration. A few days later, a Spanish judge, presumably one close to Spain’s Culture Minister, ruled that the art pieces could be removed beginning this Monday. He also authorized the use of force if it was necessary.

An official from the Catalan government, Àngels Solé, said: “This is pure-plundering. They have the brute force, there are a lot of police officers, the people are afraid. According to Solé, “These works were legally bought.”

 

 

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