Everything ready for tomorrow?s demonstration, including the Constitutional Court?s final publication of the sentence

The details of the sentence on the Catalan Statute of Autonomy have finally been released today through an 881-page document. On Monday the 28th of June, the Constitutional Court decided to trim the ?Catalan Constitution?, which is currently enforced

CNA / Gaspar Pericay Coll

July 10, 2010 12:18 AM

Barcelona (CNA).- Tomorrow, on Saturday, the large demonstration against the Constitutional Court’s sentence on the Catalan Statute of Autonomy is scheduled. During the last 10 days, Catalan political parties have been arguing over the motto of the demonstration, which is organised by Òmnium Cultural, the main civil society organisation promoting Catalan culture. The parties were mainly motivated by the next Catalan elections expected to be held next November. The self-interested discussion among Catalan parties backing the demonstration was finalised yesterday with a consensual agreement, which is quite curious. Besides, today the Constitutional Court has issued the final version of the sentence, whose main lines were also known on the 28th of June when the Court took its decision. The details known today and assembled in an 881 page document do not present great surprises, they confirm the suppression of 14 articles and the reinterpretation of 27 of the 223 articles that the original Statute of Autonomy had.

The last ingredient for tomorrow’s demonstration is ready. The Constitutional Court has finally unveiled the details of the sentence voted on 12 days ago. The details do not change how the sentence has been perceived by a significant part of Catalonia’s population; on the contrary, it confirms the reasons for tomorrow’s demonstration. All of the main political parties in Catalonia, which represent almost 90% of the members of the Catalan Parliament, support this demonstration. In addition, Barcelona’s chamber of Commerce, the main business associations, the main trade unions, as well as most of the most relevant civil society organisations back the demonstration and are asking Catalan citizens to participate. Even FC Barcelona’s recently elected president, Sandro Rosell, is supporting tomorrow’s popular claim against the sentence. In fact, almost all Catalan political, economic, social and cultural elite back the demonstration, contrasting with a large proportion of citizens in Catalonia who seem not to care.

However, tomorrow’s demonstration is expected to be the largest demonstration in democracy supporting Catalonia’s self-government. The largest one so far was the one held in 1977, 2 years after the death of the fascist dictator Francisco Franco, when democracy was in an embryonic state in Spain. The 1977 demonstration congregated about a million of people (although recent calculations reduce this figure) shouting the motto “Llibertat, amnistia i Estatut d’Autonomia” (“Freedom, Amnesty and Statute of Autonomy”).

In the rest of Spain, and in particular in Madrid, tomorrow’s demonstration has been perceived by some as an offense to the Constitutional Court or even to Spain itself, such as the Spanish nationalist and conservative People’s Party (PP). Its Secretary General, Maria Dolores de Cospedal accused the Catalan President, the Socialist José Montilla of being “a fascist” for supporting the demonstration. However, the largest proportion of citizens in the rest of Spain seem not to care about the demonstration or about the Constitutional Court’s sentence and decision-making process, which has been very controversial and has lasted almost 4 years, while the Statute was approved via referendum and had already entered into force.

Why this demonstration?

Catalan citizens will go on the street and protest for many individual reasons, some of them weighing more than others. However, we can group them into 3 main reasons:
1) The reduction of the Catalan Autonomy. The Constitutional Court has eliminated 14 articles and reinterpreted 27, trimming the Statute of Autonomy, which has been in force for the past four years, and reducing Catalonia’s competences, in particular in the field of Justice, fiscal equilibration and language.

2) The humiliation that the Catalan people have felt and have voiced from having a law approved via a binding referendum modified by a Court, which is clearly politicised and in a doubtful situation as the Court consists of members with their mandates expired, another one with the dubious interdiction to participate in the deliberation and a last one who died 2 years ago and has not been replaced. This creates a clear conflict of legitimacies between a State institution with a key role in the State of the Autonomies and the people’s will expressed democratically via a binding referendum on a text approved by both the Catalan Parliament and the Spanish one.
3) The inflexion point and Spain’s decentralisation process, which reduces the Autonomy and reinterprets the Spanish Constitution approved in 1978. Regarding Catalonia’s recognition as a nation and having greater levels of self-government, the Spanish Constitution is deliberately open and vague. It stresses on one side the unity of Spain and on the other it recognises the existence of “nationalities and regions”. This contradiction was put to balance in 1978 by the Spanish nationalists, represented by the inheritors of Franco’s regime, and the periphery nationalists (Basques, Catalans and Galicians). The Constitution was deliberately open to include all types of sensitivities. The Constitutional Court, instead of including the democratically expressed will for greater self-government of Catalans and their will to be considered a nation, which does not have a juridical effect (it must be said), it has shrunk the Constitution and has taken Catalonia’s legitimate aspirations out of it.

Catalan forces have the intention to unite and march in tomorrow’s demonstration. However, this unity was at risk thanks to the argument by political parties on the demonstration’s exact wording of the motto.

The discussion of the motto

Tomorrow’s demonstration will be finally led by the motto, repeated twice, and the Catalan flag. However, how exactly the motto will be repeated, if the flag will go first or not, or the exact wording of the motto have been the subjects of a long, closed-door debate among the participating political parties and representatives of the organising institution, Òmnium Cultural, the main civil society platform promoting Catalan culture.

The motto originally chosen by the organisation 12 days ago has finally been kept. The motto is “We are a nation. We decide”. However, it will first appear split into 2 parts: “We are a nation” and “We decide”. In between both parts, a huge Catalan flag will be carried by anonymous citizens in a horizontal position (parallel to the floor). Behind the flag, the President of the Catalan Government, the President of the Catalan Parliament, as well as all the former living presidents of both institutions will march. Then, after them, the proper head of the demonstration will be placed, with the entire motto. Representatives of the supporting political parties, civil society organisations and individual VIPs will be there.

The reason for this week of discussion, which may appear absurd and surreal, and which have been close to destroy the much-voiced unity of the Catalan forces, is in the coming Catalan elections. None of the parties wanted to be left behind, but all of them wanted to defend their own interests. The Catalan President, José Montilla, who is the candidate of the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), only wanted a Catalan flag. He agreed on the part “We are a nation” but not on the “We decide” as it could give the idea of supporting self-determination. The PSC does not support the Catalan independence and pushes for a federal Spain with Catalonia inside. On the evening of the 28th of June when the sentence was known, Montilla stated in an institutional declaration that he supported all kinds of civic and pacific demonstrations against the Court’s decision. He underlined that Catalan forces should go in united behind a Catalan flag. However, he also backed some hours later the demonstration organised by Òmnium Cultural with the official motto “We are a nation. We decide”, transforming this demonstration into the official one. The PSC feels uncomfortable with the part “We decide” and tried to change the motto. Their fear is that, with this exact wording, the demonstration may exclude a significant part of Catalan self-government supporters who do not support independence or the right to self-determination but only want a Spain that recognises its plurality. In fact, this is the PSC’s official position on the subject. However, the rest of the parties and the organisation did not want to help the PSC in its dilemma, as elections are very close. At the end, though, after declarations made each day by politicians of all parties on these details, they agreed. In the meanwhile Catalan society was looking at this spectacle with a mix of surprise, mockery, tiredness and angriness, as there is a general will for unity.

The Constitutional Court’s sentence, finally ready

In addition, today the Constitutional Court has finally issued the entire sentence, with all the details, on the Catalan Statute. It is an enormous document of 881 pages. The sentence eliminates 14 articles and re-interprets 27. For the rest of Spain, the sentence is light and does not affect Catalonia’s self-government. For the Spanish Government, 95% of the Catalan Statute of Autonomy is constitutional and “only” 5% it is not, stressing that it does not affect the core of the text. In Catalonia it is argued that it specially affects the reasons why the Catalan people approved this new Statute. It affects, among many other points:
- the recognition of Catalonia as a nation,
- the special protection of the Catalan language,
- the solidarity of the other regions in Spain in the great fiscal effort that Catalonia makes for territorial financial equilibration within Spain,
- the decentralisation of Justice (in a State that has the executive and the legislative powers already decentralised, and has a very conservative judicial power).

These points have been considered by a significant part of Catalans as a hostile move from the Spanish nationalism. And tomorrow, they will march to democratically object against this decision, using their freedom of speech and right of demonstration.