Catalonia's self-determination process carries on despite the Constitutional Court's decision
The President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, stated on Wednesday that the self-determination process will go on despite the Constitutional Court’s ruling against the 'Declaration of Sovereignty' the day before. Mas insisted that the process "continues", since it is based on its democratic legitimacy, it adheres to its peaceful nature and will use all the existing legal frameworks. On the same day, the Catalan Vice President, Joana Ortega, sent a letter to all the Mayors in Catalonia to ask for their "compromise and co-operation" in organising a self-determination vote. Besides, the Catalan Parliament has elected the 3 MPs who will go to Madrid and ask for the transfer of referendum powers using Article 150.2 of the Constitution.
Barcelona (ACN).- The President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, stated on Wednesday that the self-determination process will go on despite the Constitutional Court’s ruling against the Catalan Parliament's 'Declaration of Sovereignty' the day before. Mas insisted that the process "continues", since it is based on its democratic legitimacy, it adheres to its peaceful nature and will use all the existing legal frameworks. The Catalan President criticised the Court for having issued a judgement on a strictly political declaration of a Parliament, a judgment which was "absolutely unnecessary", he said. In addition, he criticised the Court for not having issued judgements on many political statements from other parliaments or electoral programmes that clearly do not fit into the current Constitution. On the same day, the Vice President of the Catalan Government, Joana Ortega, in charge of electoral processes, sent a letter to all the Mayors in Catalonia to ask for their "compromise and cooperation" in organising a self-determination vote. Ortega states in her letter that "the co-responsibility" of all Catalan institutions is needed to organise the self-determination vote. A majority of Catalan parties, following the electoral mandate of the Catalan people, agreed to organise a self-determination vote on the 9th November 2014. Besides, this Wednesday the Catalan Parliament elected the 3 MPs who will address the Spanish Parliament on the 8th of April and ask for the transfer of referendum powers to the Catalan Government using Article 150.2 of the Constitution. This formula is similar to the Scottish one and is one of the 5 formulas identified in the current legal framework that would allow for organising a self-determination vote if there was the political will to do so in Madrid. The 3 MPs that will uphold the Catalan point of view are: Jordi Turull, from the governing Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU), Marta Rovira, from the Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC), and Joan Herrera, from the Catalan Green Socialist and post-Communist Coalition (ICV-EUiA). Therefore, Catalonia's self-determination process goes on.
As expected, the Constitutional Court's decision to declare the 'Declaration of sovereignty and the right to self-determination by the people of Catalonia' "unconstitutional and void" has not stopped the independence debate and the self-determination claims. This text was approved by the Catalan Parliament on the 23rd of January 2013 with 85 "yes" votes against 41 "no" ballots, and it was a political statement without legal direct effects emphasising that the Catalan people has the right to decide on its own collective future as a "sovereign political and legal entity". The Court declared this part of the text unconstitutional, although it recognised the "right to decide" but not the right to self-determination.
The Constitutional Court considered self-determination to be a legitimate "political aspiration" but that currently it does not fit into the Constitution. Therefore, it urged politicians to find an agreement, which could be the reform of the Constitution following the existing mechanisms. However, the People's Party – which runs the Spanish Government and holds an absolute majority in the Spanish Parliament – does not even want to hear about a Constitutional reform and totally blocks this door. In fact, there have already been petitions in the Spanish Parliament to carry out such a reform, but the PP has always refused to even talk about it. However, in September 2011, the Spanish Constitution was reformed in an express way to include limitations to public debt and deficit, in the middle of the financial crisis. Furthermore, Catalan parties have warned that the Spanish Government's recentralisation policies and initiatives are a de facto Constitutional Reform, since they totally change the decentralisation trend of the last 35 years and reduce the powers of the Autonomous Communities, including Catalonia.
The current Constitution could allow a self-determination consultation vote
In Catalonia, many political parties and experts consider that the current Constitution and legal framework allows up to 5 different legal ways to organise a self-determination consultation vote. There have been numerous reports and experts stating this. For instance, Miquel Roca, one of the seven fathers of the Spanish Constitution, stated that the Constitution did not ban such a vote and clearly framed the issue as a problem of political will. For these reasons and also because of the great pressure at street level from a wide section of the Catalan population and the last electoral mandate, there is a broad consensus to carry on with the self-determination process, despite the Constitutional Court's decision. The last opinion poll, published last week, indicated that 60% of citizens would support Catalonia becoming an independent European state.
A politicised Constitutional Court with little legitimacy
On top of this, this Court has lost most of its prestige in the last few years, as it has been totally politicised by the PP and the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE). The debate on the Catalan Statute of Autonomy – approved by the Spanish Parliament and the Catalan people through a binding referendum in 2006 – was a clear proof of this politicisation.
Back then, in 2010, the Constitutional Court trimmed the Statute of Autonomy and sparked independence claims, which since that moment have grown rampantly. In July 2010, answering the Constitutional Court, Catalans demonstrated massively under the motto "we are a nation, we decide". That protest ended with pro-independence chants mostly shared by the attenders. The 1.5 million strong demonstration of 2012 and the 400-km-long human chain of 2013 (with at least 1.6 million attendees) followed.
Now, 3 of the Court’s 12 members have close ties with the PP and have issued anti-Catalan statements over the past few years. For this reason the Catalan Parliament was about to ask for their disqualification to rule on Catalonia's 'Declaration of Sovereignty', but the Court issued the definitive judgement a few hours after the decision from the Catalan chamber had been known and before it could send the formal petition. Furthermore, the Catalan Government had already asked in July for the disqualification of the Court's President, but the petition was rejected by the Court itself. Therefore, it does not seem very likely that the judgement issued by a politicised court based in Madrid will stop a grassroots movement, which is represented by some two thirds of the Catalan Parliament and many civil society organisations at street level.