Catalonia’s majority is ready to carry on with alternative vote despite Rajoy being ready to appeal it
On Thursday, the Spanish Government’s main advisory body – the State Council – has issued a non-binding report upon the request of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy against the alternative consultation vote that the Catalan Executive is organising for November 9. This body has unanimously recommended taking Catalonia’s participatory process to the Constitutional Court and requesting its suspension. Now, Rajoy has the green light to make such a step on Friday, only 9 days before the vote is supposed to happen. Meanwhile in Catalonia, all the parties supporting the self-determination process are insisting on continuing to work for high citizen participation on the 9th of November. Furthermore, on Wednesday evening, they started campaigning and the Catalan Government launched the website to inform citizens about their exact voting place. Besides, those against independence in Catalonia are divided between those asking Rajoy to be smart and not to appeal, and those asking him to stop the vote.
Barcelona (ACN).- On Thursday, the Spanish Government’s main advisory body – the State Council – issued a non-binding report upon the request of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy against the alternative consultation vote that the Catalan Executive is organising for November 9. With a unanimous vote, this body has recommended the Spanish Government takes Catalonia’s participatory process to the Constitutional Court and requests its suspension. Their main argument is that citizens will be asked the exact same question than that in the original consultation vote, which was already suspended by the Court. Such a non-binding recommendation is a mandatory step for the Spanish Executive to present an appeal to the Constitution. Now, Rajoy has the green light to take such a step, which is likely to happen on Friday, after the weekly Cabinet Meeting, and only 9 days before the vote is supposed to happen. Meanwhile in Catalonia, all the parties supporting the self-determination process and the main civil society pro-independence organisations are insisting on continuing to work for high citizen participation on the 9th of November after they knew about the State Council’s recommendation. Furthermore, on Wednesday evening, they started campaigning for independence or for a high turnout, depending on their official stance about this issue. In addition, the Catalan Government launched the website to inform citizens about their exact voting place, enabling them to print out their voting information. In fact, the Catalan Government is emphasising that is almost impossible to stop the vote from happening as almost all the preparations are done and the vote will be run by volunteers. Besides, parties against independence are divided between those who want to stop the consultation vote from happening by all means and those who argue it is better to tolerate it. Among the last ones, was the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), which asked Rajoy to ignore the State Council’s non-binding recommendation and not to appeal against the alternative vote, as it will be “a mistake”.
As everybody was expecting, the State Council – which is mostly formed by former members of the Spanish Government, former presidents of the main judicial bodies and old high officers who have spent most of their careers in Madrid political circles (some of them starting theirs within Franco’s Regime) – has counselled Rajoy to appeal against the alternative participatory process, scheduled for the 9th of November, and to prevent Catalans from voting on their independence from Spain. The alternative participatory process replaces the original consultation vote, scheduled on the same day, which was temporarily suspended by the Constitutional Court upon request of the Spanish Government in a completely unusual and urgent way that questioned the separation of powers in Spain. The State Council’s non-binding report has been unanimously approved by its Permanent Commission, which is chaired by the Catalan-born Landelino Ladilla, who was a high official in Franco’s Dictatorship and played a significant role during the Transition to Democracy.
The vote’s question is the main argument to appeal the participatory process
After the meeting, the State Council Member and former President of the Constitutional Court, Miguel Rodríguez Piñero underlined that the State Council has to follow its own decisions and that it already ruled against a vote on Catalonia’s independence a month ago. In fact, one of the main arguments to appeal against this new vote is that the question citizens will be asked to answer is exactly the same one as that of the original consultation vote’s. Furthermore, the fact that the non-binding vote will be run by volunteers is considered as an additional unconstitutional element, since it goes against democratic guarantees, argued the State Council.
Now, the Spanish Government has taken all the mandatory steps to take the Catalan participatory process to the Constitutional Court and request to ban it. If the Constitutional Court accepts to take into consideration Rajoy’s appeal, following the Spanish Constitution, the object of the appeal will be automatically suspended, regardless the definitive decision of the Court, which can take several months or even years to be reached. Normally the Court takes a few days or weeks to decide in its plenary whether it accepts the Spanish Government’s appeals or not, but for the original consultation vote on Catalonia’s independence, the Court organised a plenary session on the very same day the appeal was filed and it immediately accepted it. It is expected that the new appeal will be filed on Friday, before closes its register at 3pm. Otherwise, it should at least wait until Monday at 9.30am. The Constitutional Court could rush again in accepting Rajoy’s appeal, contributing to damaging its already weak legitimacy, or it could wait until the next scheduled plenary, which is supposed to take place next Tuesday November 4, just 5 days before the Catalan vote.
Rajoy stresses that November’s vote “does not meet democratic conditions”
The Spanish PM confirmed on Thursday that the Government he chairs will debate on Friday the appeal against the Catalan alternative vote on independence. Rajoy stressed that this “pseudo-consultation vote” does “not meet democratic conditions”, as “it does not have a census, is not based on a law, it does not have a law to guarantee its neutrality and we do not know who are the members of the polling stations”. The Catalan Government already admitted that this alternative formula was not a true referendum and that it did not meet all the democratic conditions because the Spanish Government had made impossible to hold a regular vote. However, the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, also added that November 9’s vote was a first step towards “the definitive vote”, which should be early elections to the Catalan Parliament transformed by the running parties into a plebiscite on independence.
Catalan President: November 9’s vote “is almost ready and we keep going ahead”
In fact, the Catalan President has not been surprised by the State Council’s decision, he said. However, Mas wondered how exactly the Spanish authorities will stop the vote from happening. “Will they appeal against the 40,000 volunteers?” who have registered to run the polling stations, including many civil servants, he wondered. In this vein, the Catalan President added that all the preparations for the participatory process “are almost ready” and therefore all the preparation has been done. Therefore, he concluded that the vote is very difficult to be stopped, taking into account that it will be run by volunteers.
In fact, the Catalan Minister for the Presidency, Francesc Homs, confirmed that the Executive “will keep calm and will go ahead”. “We will do what we are willing to do and we will do it rightly”, he added, insisting that after the State Council’s report, “nothing has changed”.
Parties supporting the self-determination agenda ask to carry on with the vote
After knowing about the State Council’s recommendation, all the 6 parties that agreed on the original consultation vote on independence as well as on its question and exact day have asked the Catalan Government to go ahead and carry on with the vote. Jordi Turull, one of the leading members of the Liberal CDC, the largest force within the governing centre-right pro-Catalan State two-party coalition CiU, stated that it is “ridiculous” that the Spanish Government is willing to suspend “an administrative act that does not exist”, since the Catalan President has not signed any decree calling for the new vote. Furthermore, he underlined that those running the vote “will not be civil servants, but volunteers”. In addition, he asked citizens to participate and vote on the next November 9. The Christian-Democrat UDC, the smallest party within the CiU that does not have an official stance on independence, has asked its territorial leaders for their “maximal involvement” in the November 9’s vote.
Furthermore, on Wednesday evening, CDC launched its official campaign for November’s 9 vote in which it asks for independence. Its General Coordinator, Josep Rull, astated that Rajoy has a challenge on this day: either to work for “Spain’s democratic consolidation or its democratic shame”. In addition, the CDC Mayor of Barcelona, Xavier Trias, has warned that “some members of the Spanish Government” will use “very dirty tricks” to stop Catalans from voting. In fact, the Madrid-based newspaper ‘El Mundo’ accused Trias of having €12.9 million in a non-declared Swiss bank account three days ago, quoting information from the Spanish Home Affairs Ministry. However, Trias immediately rejected the accusation and filed a judicial complaint, asking Switzerland and Andorra authorities to certify he does not and has not had any bank account in those countries.
Besides, the President of the left-wing Catalan independence party ERC, Oriol Junqueras, has asked the Catalan Government to keep working for the alternative vote to take place. “We hope that everybody will honour the commitments, as it should have always happened”, he stated referring to the Catalan Government cancelling the previous vote after the ban from the Spanish authorities. Now “the key issue is not what the State Council, the Constitutional Court or the Spanish Government say but whether we keep going ahead or not”, he emphasised. On top of this, all the ERC MPs participated in a photo opportunity in front of the Catalan Parliament with ballots and ballot boxes, underlining once again their will to vote on independence. According to him, no matter what the Spanish authorities will say in the coming days, Catalan “have to go voting on November 9”. Besides, on Wednesday evening, Junqueras launched the ERC’s official campaign for the alternative consultation vote, insisting that independence is “urgent” and “essential” in order to guarantee economic prosperity and quality public services.
The leader of the Catalan green socialist and post-communist coalition ICV-EUiA, Joan Herrera, said that now that the Spanish Government is stopping Catalans from voting on November 9, he “will participate” and “cast his ballot”. A few days ago, he had confirmed he “would not vote” because he disagreed with the Catalan Government on cancelling the original consultation vote. Despite this disagreement, he has always said he would be demonstrating on November 9 in order to demand Catalans’ right to self-determination. However now, since Catalans are banned from voting, he said that this changes things and that he will go and cast his vote because “the Spanish Government is cutting off our rights”, he emphasised. Furthermore, the ICV-EUiA has also accused the People’s party (PP) of being “an illness for democracy”. They green socialists are asking citizens to transform November 9’s process into “a motion” against the PP and the Spanish Government.
Finally, the alternative left and radical independence party CUP has asked for “disobedience”. The CUP MP, David Fernández, stated that on November 9 “there will be ballot boxes, no matter what the State Council says”. According to the CUP, “the dilemma is not what La Moncloa [the Spanish PM’s office] will do but what are we going to do”. “In front of each ban, each imposition and its negation, [we show] greater democratic conviction, strength and determination”, Fernández added.