Spanish Constitutional Court Blocks Puigdemont’s Investiture as President

On Saturday, the Spanish Constitutional Court ruled that Carles Puigdemont can only be sworn in as president in person and with a juridical authorization prior to appearance in court. This decision, which sets a dangerous precedent, comes after the Spanish government pressured the court to rule in its favor.

According to ex-members of the Constitutional Court and prestigious jurists, the Constitutional Court violated its own rules by adopting precautionary measures against Puigdemont and four members of his cabinet since the Court only had the power to decide whether or not to consider Rajoy’s cabinet’s appeal.

Most of the current judges which form the Spanish Constitutional Court were directly appointed by the two largest Spanish political parties, PP and PSOE, which shows the high degree of politicization in the Spanish judicial system.

The Spanish government made a surprise announcement on Tuesday that it would appeal against Puigdemont’s candidacy for president in the Constitutional Court. This came after Rajoy said there was no legal basis for such a move a few days before.

Vice-President Santamaría alleged that a fugitive couldn’t be nominated as president without previously appearing in front of a judge. She added that there was also an ongoing search and arrest warrant issued against Puigdemont.

The Spanish Council of State formed by former ministers and lawyers ruled on Thursday that Puigdemont’s candidacy for president couldn’t be suspended until there is a firm judicial sentence against him since he retains his rights as an elected MP.

A Remote Investiture and Delegation of Votes

The Constitutional Court ruled against the remote investiture of Puigdemont since the presidential candidate must be physically in the Parliament during the debate. The Court also prohibited Puigdemont and the four ministers of his cabinet, who are in exile in Belgium, to delegate their votes for the investiture session.

Warning against the Catalan Parliament Bureau

The Constitutional Court also called on the members of the Catalan Parliament’s Bureau to respect its resolution, pointing out that whoever disobeys it will face criminal charges.

Appeal to the European Court of Human Rights

A few hours after learning about the resolution of the Constitutional Court, the Catalan lawyer of Puigdemont Cuevillas said that he would probably take the Constitutional Court decision to the European Court of Human Rights. He said it was a political decision which violates his client’s rights.

Numerous representatives of JxCat said, “ We will not propose [for president] a candidate other than Puigdemont. Plan A is Puigdemont; Plan B Puigdemont.”

Puigdemont’s reaction

“Even the Constitutional Court rejected the legal fraud that the Spanish government was perpetuating. More than one person should rectify the situation and end the politics once and for all. And if they are unable to do so, they should consider stepping down and giving way,” he tweeted.

The Spanish government also reacted to the news by welcoming the fact that the judges do not allow an investiture at a distance, which Madrid brands as “fraudulent.”

The CUP party calls on Catalan parliament speaker Torrent to “disobey”

The CUP party urged the Catalan Parliament president to disobey yesterday’s Constitutional Court resolution against Puigdemont’s candidacy for president. It added that they will only be present in the investiture session if Puigdemont is the candidate. Otherwise, they will attempt to block the formation of a new government which could lead to new elections.

 

 

 

 

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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.

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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Over a Million Protesters March in Barcelona to Call for the Release of Catalan Political Prisoners

On Saturday, over a million Catalans marched in Barcelona to call for the release of the Catalan political prisoners recently imprisoned by Spain. The demonstration was given the name of “National Day for Liberty,” aiming for the same level of attendance and international impact as the yearly celebrations for Catalonia’s September 11th National Day. The demonstration filled more than three kilometers (almost 2 miles) of one of the Catalan capital’s main thoroughfares. Almost a thousand buses loaded with independentists from across the country headed to the protest in Barcelona.

At the front of the demonstration, a banner held by family members of the Catalan political prisoners and the organizers read, “Freedom for political prisoners, we are the Republic.” Attendance exceeded the expectations of the organizers, which delayed the beginning of the protest by an hour. The march lasted for 3 hours before arriving at the intersection with Avenida Icària, where a stage had been set up for speeches. That was where members of the families of the Catalan political prisoners climbed onto the stage and, one by one, read aloud letters written by the Catalan leaders in prison. The letters read:

Minister Joaquim Forn said, “Now it isn’t the time for differences,” but the moment for unity. Peace, democracy, and freedom are the values which give strength to the people of Catalonia,” he added. Ministers Meritxell Borràs and Dolors Bassa, in a joint letter, gave their thanks for the “hundreds” of letters received daily at their prison, Alcalá-Meco: “our physical distance doesn’t prevent us from feeling you near.” Minister Josep Rull said, “They’re wrong if they believe that they can imprison the will of the people”. He argued that “we’re the legitimate government because the Catalans decided so through a powerful tool: the ballot box”.

For his part, Minister Carles Mundó said, “People can be imprisoned, but nobody can imprison ideas.” “Political problems can never be solved in the court of the justice system,” he added. The Foreign Minister, Raül Romeva addressed the people, asking them “to keep their hand outstretched and the will to dialogue, without falling to provocations.” Government spokesperson Jordi Turull said, “Our bodies are in prison, but our hearts and our commitment are with you” He also called for unity: “It’s with unity that we’ve made great strides”.

Vice-president Oriol Junqueras denounced the “complicity of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) with the Spanish government in the imprisonments of democratically elected leaders like himself and their explicit support for Spain’s intervention in Catalonia’s government, which has removed any type of self-rule in Catalonia and has also installed the Spanish vice-president Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría as the Catalan president until the next elections are held.” He said that he and the other imprisoned ministers are the “scapegoats” of the Spanish state to frighten the independence movement.

The leaders of the two major Catalan grassroots organizations, Jordi Cuixart (ANC) and Jordi Sànchez (Òmnium), who were also imprisoned, sent messages to be read out by their family members to the million plus protesters gathered at Saturday’s demonstration.

Jordi Cuixart said, “great obstacles are for great spirits,” whilst Jordi Sànchez called on the Catalans to vote on the December 21st Catalan general elections. “Our strength is our unity, let nobody doubt that we will win.” The rally ended with messages sent by President Puigdemont and the members of his cabinet from Brussels.

 

Catalonia’s Decisive Week for Independence

On Tuesday, Catalan President Puigdemont “declared Catalonia’s independence,” but soon after suspended its effects in favor of dialogue with Spanish authorities. His decision came after numerous international actors suggested that mediation would only be possible if he halted independence as a sign of good faith.

Nevertheless, numerous members of parliament, who were informed about Puigdemont’s decision only 45 minutes before his intervention, expressed their disagreement and threatened to boycott his speech, as well as threatening to break the pro-independence absolute majority in Parliament. They stressed that they had agreed on a different declaration earlier in the day.

To address this alarming situation, President of Parliament Forcadell decided to suspend the plenary for 1 hour. While the disagreements remained, everyone present in the meeting finally accepted Puigdemont’s changes to the speech in order to maintain unity. Additionally, they agreed to hold a ceremony to sign an unofficial declaration of independence in another building after the plenary in order to give more solemnity to the day.

Tens of thousands of people who gathered around the parliament to celebrate the proclamation of the new Catalonian Republic ended up with mixed feelings. At first, when Puigdemont declared independence, they felt very excited, but this turned to disappointment when he suspended its legal effects without setting a deadline a few seconds later.

Most experts saw Puigdemont’s move as a wise one because it served to show the international community that Catalonia is seeking dialogue until the very end, which favours future international recognition of Catalonia as an independent country.

On Wednesday, Spanish PM Rajoy refused Puigdemont’s latest offer of dialogue and activated Article 155, which can be fully implemented a few days after Puigdemont responds to a mandatory request for information as to whether he has declared independence. He was given until Monday to respond; if it is in the affirmative, this period is extended until Thursday, with the option of altering the decision.

With Article 155, Rajoy can suspend Catalonia’s government, intervene in the education system and the police, and even call for an early election while installing technocrats from the central government to rule Catalonia for at least 3 months. In parallel, pro-independence parties and organizations may also be barred from participating in any eventual general election for at least 4 years.

Major pro-independence organizations are preparing a proportionate response to the implementation of the Article 155 and the possible arrest of Catalonia’s President and vice-president, which includes mass protests, and an indefinite general strike. The main idea would be to collapse the Spanish and European economies and eventually force an international intervention/mediation in Catalonia.

The response may be precipitated by Spain this Monday, because the leaders of the two major pro-independence organizations, Cuixart and Sanchez, have been summoned by the Spanish National Court to testify about “sedition charges” (punishable by up to 15 years in prison + a fine). According to some journalists with contacts in the Spanish government, the judges who are hearing these two cases have already made the decision to jail them in order to smash their respective organizations and thus spread fear across Catalonian society.

Against this possible outcome, Cuixart and Sanchez named their replacements on Saturday. In the meantime, pro-independence organizations and parties such as the ANC, Omnium, ERC, CUP, Democrates and several MP’s from the PDECAT have called on Puigdemont to lift the suspension of Catalonia’s declaration of independence and implement its legal effects as soon as next week. If possible before the Spanish implementation of Article 155.They believe there are no longer grounds for mediation or negotiations as equals with Spain, and that the only way to bring about international mediation/negotiations is by formally declaring independence first.

With this in mind, Puigdemont will have to make the most important decision of his life tomorrow morning. He must decide whether to go all-out to respect the will of the Catalonian people and face a prison sentence of up to 15 years or to surrender, refuse to declare independence, and thus comply with the Spanish government’s will.

Whatever Puigdemont’s decision may be in the coming hours, the worsening of the conflict between Catalonia and Spain appears to be inevitable, given that if he surrenders the independence process, millions of Catalans will then feel betrayed, resulting in the radicalization of many who would rise up against the Spanish government in order to defend the newly promised Catalonian Republic.

Perhaps the only thing that can stop this upcoming clash would be Spain’s acceptance of international mediation. Although, I must admit that I do not have much hope of that happening.

 

The Week that Spain Lost Catalonia

The detention of 15 high-ranking officials and the suspension of the Catalan government, last week by the Spanish government, in order to halt the referendum on independence set for tomorrow appears to have united separatists, federalists, and a significant number of unionists in defense of the vote.

“I have always been opposed to this referendum, because I am a federalist. However, the latest Spanish aggressions against Catalonia in order to humiliate our people is intolerable. That’s the main reason why I have decided to vote, and I will vote “YES” because I do not want to belong to a dictatorship like Turkey any longer. I think that the creation of a new state would give us the chance to build a more fair country and society” said David, a Barcelona citizen.

My family and I have always voted for unionist parties. We like Spain and most of our friends are from Madrid. Nevertheless, the Spanish repression of the Catalans this week is unacceptable. The government has violated the international law and has restricted the freedom of expression in Catalonia. They have raided printing shops, newspapers offices, and forbidden Catalan editors from advertising the referendum. Last week, they suspended our government and detained a number of our democratically elected representatives. Until this week, I was not going to vote in the referendum because I have always been a unionist, but Spain does not give me any other option. I will go to vote “YES” because this is no longer a referendum on independence, it is all about “Democracy” VS “Dictatorship,” said Marta, a Barcelona businesswoman.

The Catalan government has had serious problems in mobilizing the “unionists” for this referendum until the past week. Most of them thought that they could defeat the Catalan President by promoting a boycott of the vote. However, the latest Spanish aggressions against Catalan institutions have changed the situation, and it appears now that the vast majority of unionists are willing to support the referendum, in order to preserve democracy. This could result in a historic turnout that cannot be ignored by the international community.

The constant attacks against Catalonia by the Spanish government have also united separatists, federalists, and several unionist political parties, which are now calling on the people for mass participation in the referendum. Additionally, they are planning a social/labor indefinite general strike starting on October 3rd, in order to collapse the Spanish economy, if Spain does not recognize the results of the vote.

Although the Catalan government has always been committed to carrying out the referendum, there has always been serious doubts about the validation of the results. However, it seems that the latest anti-democratic actions against Catalonia by Spain have already guaranteed the international recognition of the results, whatever they may be.

Spain Assaults the Catalan Government

Spanish militarized police assaulted Catalan government offices and arrested 15 officials on Wednesday in order to stop the October 1st banned referendum. The Catalan president said that this action meant the suspension of Catalonia’s government and the implementation of a state of emergency across the country.

Tens of thousands of protesters crowded outside the Catalan government offices in downtown Barcelona’s tourist district, waving Catalan flags and chanting “Occupying forces out” and “Where is Europe?”.

The Spanish state has by all rights intervened in Catalonia’s government and has established emergency rule,” said President Carles Puigdemont. “We condemn and reject the anti-democratic and totalitarian actions of the Spanish state,” he said, calling on the Catalans to vote in the referendum to preserve democracy.

Spanish militarized police detained Catalonia’s junior economy minister Josep Maria Jove and 14 high-ranking local officials. The raid targeted numerous regional government departments.

Police confirmed that they were carrying out raids to dismantle the organization of the October 1st referendum.

Despite Spanish police provocations to cause riots, mass protests across Catalonia remained peaceful. Protesters bore banners reading “Democracy” and “Vote to be free”.

The FC Barcelona soccer club said in a statement: “FC Barcelona, in remaining faithful to its historic commitment to the defense of the nation, to democracy, to freedom of speech, and to self-determination, condemns any act that may impede the free exercise of these rights.”

Police efforts to stop the referendum have intensified in recent days as the Catalan government reaffirms its commitment to hold the referendum by any means. A few days ago, President Puigdemont said that he and his administration members were willing to go to prison if necessary. He added that he is not afraid of defending people’s rights.

Over the last few weeks, the Spanish police have raided printer’s shops, newspaper offices private post-delivery companies looking for the necessary material to hold the referendum, instruction manuals for manning voting stations and ballot boxes.