Catalan Government is confident there will be ballot boxes on November 9 despite Rajoy's appeal

The Spanish Government, chaired by Mariano Rajoy, has activated the machinery to suspend the alternative non-binding participatory process that the Catalan Executive is organising on the 9th of November, which replaces the original consultation vote. On Monday evening, Rajoy asked the State Council – his main advisory body – for a non-binding report on the Catalonia's new vote; it did so on the same day that a broad network of corruption, mainly involving Rajoy's People's Party (PP), was revealed. On Tuesday, the Catalan Government replied that its will is to put out ballot boxes, since it does not believe the Constitutional Court will suspend such a participatory process. Left-wing parties backing a self-determination consultation asked the Catalan Government to keep the vote no matter what. Now that the unity of action among pro-self-determination forces has been restored, the PP is calling the vote a "referendum", after downplaying it for two weeks.

The Catalan Government's Spokesperson and Minister for the Presidency, Francesc Homs, on Tuesday (by P. Mateos)
The Catalan Government's Spokesperson and Minister for the Presidency, Francesc Homs, on Tuesday (by P. Mateos) / ACN


October 28, 2014 08:51 PM

Barcelona (ACN).- The Spanish Government, chaired by Mariano Rajoy, has activated the machinery to suspend the alternative participatory process that the Catalan Executive is organising for the 9th of November, which replaces the original consultation vote scheduled on the same day. On Monday evening, the Spanish Government asked the State Council – its main advisory body – for a non-binding report on the constitutionality of Catalonia's non-binding and voluntary vote. It did so on the same day that a broad network of corruption mainly involving Rajoy's People's Party (PP) in Madrid, León, Murcia and Valencia was revealed and the night before the PP's former Secretary General and Rajoy's 'number 2' between 2004 and 2008, Angel Acebes, testified before a Higher Court judge for alleged corruption. On Tuesday morning, the Catalan Government replied that its "will" is to put out ballot boxes on November 9, since it does not believe the Constitutional Court will suspend such a participatory process. The Spanish Executive seemed to hesitate about whether to ban the vote or to tolerate it, hoping it would break down due to quarrels among self-determination supporters. However, last week, a majority of Catalan parties and the main civil society organisations finally backed the alternative November 9 process, ending the tensions among them over the cancellation of the original consultation vote. Therefore, just when the Spanish Government believed the new participatory process could become a turnout success, it has started to pave the way to stop it.

Rajoy will not make any concession and insists on his no-to-everything stance

On Tuesday afternoon, before the Spanish Senate, Rajoy was asked whether he thought his no-to-everything attitude was increasing the number of pro-independence supporters and he wondered whether he should "grant something to those calling illegal referendums". Rajoy emphasised that he was not willing to make any concession, although he said he was open to talk "always within the Constitution and the current legal framework". On top of this, he did not engage in undertaking any Constitutional reform. In fact, Rajoy has rejected granting Catalonia more powers on many occasions, as well as to reform the Constitution. In addition, for the last 2 years he has unilaterally decided to ignore the demand to hold a self-determination vote in Catalonia, shared by some 75% of Catalans, regardless whether they would vote for independence or not.

Pro-self-determination parties ask for the vote to be kept, while the PSOE backs the PP

The left-wing parties in favour of an independence referendum asked the Catalan Government to continue organising the vote no matter what. The left-wing independence party ERC asked "everybody to go forward until the end", referring to the Catalan Executive and the parties supporting self-determination. The Catalan green socialist and post-communist coalition ICV-EUiA stated that the Spanish Government "will not be able to stop the mobilisation" on November 9, despite the possibility that the vote could be banned. The alternative left and radical independence party CUP asked the civil society "to be ready to disobey" and asked the Catalan Executive "not to give up". Finally, the governing centre-right pro-Catalan State coalition CiU asked pro-self-determination parties for "unity, determination and cleverness", while it accused the Spanish Government of treating Catalans "in a reckless and sectarian" way. Meanwhile, the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) "respects" the Spanish Government's appeal while the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) – which is part of the PSOE – considers the appeal to be "a mistake" and advocated dialogue. In addition, the PP is now considering the vote to be another "referendum", while it had been downplaying it two weeks ago.

The State Council is preparing its report for Thursday

The Catalan Government stated on Tuesday, after its weekly Cabinet Meeting, that it is keeping the plans to put out ballot boxes on the 9th of November, in order to ask Catalans about their opinion on whether they would like Catalonia to become an independent state from Spain. The evening before, the Spanish Government announced that it had sent an urgent request to the State Council for an assessment on whether the alternative vote did or did not respect the Constitution.

On Tuesday, the State Council announced it will have the non-binding report ready on Thursday. This is a legally-required step for the Spanish Government to file an appeal to the Constitutional Court, which will automatically suspend the vote if it accepts the appeal, regardless of the final decision on the matter (which can take months or years). Therefore, on Friday the Spanish Executive would approve the appeal against Catalonia's participatory process in its weekly Cabinet Meeting. In this case, the appeal would be filed at the Constitutional Court on the same day, only 9 days before the vote. Then the next step would be the Constitutional Court's plenary deciding whether it accepts the taking of the appeal into consideration or not. The Court's next plenary is scheduled to start on Tuesday 4th of November, but when it had to decide on the first appeal against the original consultation vote, the Court met on the same day the appeal was filed, questioning the separation of powers in Spain. It was the first time in history the Court met on a Monday and showed such a rush to accept an appeal. Therefore, the possibility cannot be ruled out that the Court could act in a rush again and meet on Friday, during the weekend or on Monday.

The Spanish Government decides to appeal when odds are positive for the side of self-determination

At the end of last week, the Spanish Government had already changed its stance about the alternative consultation vote and on Friday it started to insinuate that it would appeal it. However, during the first 10 days, Rajoy hesitated whether or not to take such a step. For a while, it seemed he would allow the alternative vote to take place, expecting the pro-self-determination parties and pro-independence civil society organisations to fight between themselves. These internal fights within the pro-self-determination side could have demobilised many pro-independence voters and could have turned the alternative vote into a momentous failure.

However, on Sunday 19th of October, the main civil society associations that organised the massive pro-independence demonstrations in 2012, 2013 and 2014 publicly backed the new November 9's vote and asked for early elections after it, to be transformed into a 'de facto' referendum on independence. Such possibility had already been suggested by the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, on Tuesday 14th of October. On top of this, last week, the 6 parties supporting the self-determination process finally agreed to put aside their main differences regarding cancelling the original consultation vote and running in early elections and focus their efforts on guaranteeing a participation success on November 9. Such a decision was also backed last Friday by Catalonia's National Alliance for self-determination. Therefore, it is now that the odds are indicating that there are significant possibilities that the 9th of November's vote could become a success that the Spanish Government is not willing to allow this to happen.

On Monday evening, the Spanish Deputy Prime Minister, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, stated that "our duty is to make sure that the law is respected" in Spain. According to her, before the report of the State Council has been drafted and before the Constitutional Court's verdict, the alternative vote "goes against the Constitution" and therefore it should be appealed. On Friday, when she announced she had asked the Spanish Government's legal services for reports, before reading them, she already said that the alternative vote "is even more anti-democratic" than the original consultation vote. However, during the 10 days after the Catalan President announced the new vote, the Spanish Government had been much more cautious and ambiguous.

On Monday morning, the Spanish Justice Minister, Rafael Català, suggested that they could appeal against the instruction given by the Catalan Executive to "the directors of high-schools, town halls and civil servants". The Spanish Government is underlining that they do not need a proper decree to appeal against the new alternative vote. In fact, the Catalan President refused to sign a new decree to call the alternative vote in order "not to pave the way" for the Spanish Government's appeal. "This time we will make things a bit more complicated for them", stated the Catalan President two weeks ago. This Tuesday, the Spokesperson for the Catalan Government, Francesc Homs, insisted that the Catalan Government "is not doing" what was banned by Spanish authorities three weeks ago, since now it is organising a participation process with volunteers in order to gather citizen opinions. "Ballot boxes will be there on Sunday" 9th of November, Homs insisted.

The alternative November 9's vote

Catalans will be asked whether they want Catalonia to become a State and, if yes, whether they want this State to become independent. By answering "yes" to the first part and "no" to the second, citizens would be supporting a Catalan State within a federal or confederated Spain, therefore increasing Catalonia's self-government but maintaining it within Spain. By answering "yes" to both parts they would be backing full independence and by answering "no", they would support the current status quo or reducing Catalonia's self-rule. In fact, this two-part question was already the one to be asked in the consultation vote that the Constitutional Court temporarily suspended by accepting to consider the Spanish Government's appeal. This is one of the main arguments driving the Spanish Government to appeal once again against the new alternative vote.

However, the new alternative vote is not a proper consultation, but it is officially a "participation process", according to the legislation in place, which gives the Catalan Government the powers to run a participatory process in order to gather the opinion of the citizenry on specific issues. The new vote is a non-binding one, organised without a previously published census (voters register just before casting their ballot), run by volunteers (civil servants and citizens) and it  takes places in public venues owned by the Catalan Government (mainly high-schools) and municipalities (mainly social centres). All Spanish nationals living in Catalonia aged 16 years and above are allowed to vote, as well as foreign EU-nationals who have been living in Catalonia for at least one year and foreign non-EU-nationals who have been living in Catalonia for at least three years. The Spanish ID card DNI (for Spaniards) and NIE (for foreigners) will be the only document allowed to prove residence and therefore to be able to vote. Furthermore, Catalans living abroad will be able to vote in 17 venues throughout the world, located in commercial offices of the Catalan Executive, and can also travel to Catalonia to vote.

On Monday, the deadline to register as volunteer to help organise the 9th of November's vote ended and 38.706 had signed on. The Catalan Government had asked for a minimum of 20,000 volunteers, while between 3,000 and 3,500 of which should be public servants. The Catalan Executive did not disclose how many of the final volunteers were civil servants, although last week already more than 6,500 public employees had signed on.