High court provisionally suspends Catalan election delay
Government resumes preparations to hold the vote on February 14 after it had been initially adjourned over Covid-19 concerns
The Catalan high court (TSJC) has provisionally suspended the decree approved by the government pushing the upcoming election back from February 14 to May 30 over Covid-19 concerns.
The magistrates still have to make a final decision on the content of the decree – but while they deliberate, on Tuesday they moved to freeze the postponement.
This comes after several minor parties took the cabinet's move to court on Monday, as well as an individual who requested "urgent measures" to provisionally suspend it, something upheld by TSJC.
As announced by the TSJC on Twitter, a previous Catalan government decree setting the election for February 14 is now back in force, raising the possibility of the vote taking place as initially planned despite most parties agreeing to adjourn it.
The Catalan government resumed preparations to hold the vote on February 14, urged the TSJC to decide "promptly", and said it is confident it can defend the adjournment’s decree legal grounding.
"This is not the time to play with citizen’s health"
Pere Aragonès · Catalan vice president
Pere Aragonès, the vice president currently serving as interim president of the Catalan government, criticized the court’s decision and said "this is not the time to play with citizen’s health."
With Catalonia currently battling the third wave of the coronavirus pandemic, health experts believe that the peak of contagion will be reached very soon, but hospitalizations and ICU patients (which have already matched November’s levels) will continue to grow for some days.
The Catalan cabinet and the public prosecutor have until Thursday at 10 am to appeal against the requested provisional measures.
The court will first give a ruling on the provisional measures suspending the decree for the election delay, and only then will begin studying the legal challenges against the election adjournment to make a final decision.
Most parties condemn court's decision
Most parties criticized the high court's decision shortly afterwards, given that Catalonia is currently facing the third wave of Covid-19.
Left-wing Catalunya en Comú – Podem's election frontrunner, Jéssica Albiach, said that the delay "is common sense, taking into account that ICUs are brought to a standstill and that many people will not be able to vote."
For her, "it is very difficult to encourage turnout" under such circumstances.
The leader of unionist Ciudadanos, Carlos Carrizosa, urged the government to find "the legal formula" in order for the delay to be accepted by the court.
"A vote cannot take place in an environment that means a risk for public health," he said.
As for the Socialists, the only party with seats that was reluctant to postpone the vote and that was against the new date set, they called for the judicial decision to be accepted.
Their leader, Miquel Iceta, ruled out filing another appeal: "We are not doing anything with electioneering intention."
Yet, Esquerra's Marta Vilalta did not agree with Iceta. "The Catalan Socialists order, the Spanish government manoeuvres, and the judiciary carries it out. All at the expense of public health," she tweeted.
The Socialists are now soaring in the polls after changing presidential candidate and picking Spain's health minister, Salvador Illa.