Parliament to defend sovereignty if Spain suspends autonomy
President of the Catalan Parliament assures deputies will defend their freedom of expression and initiative as representatives of Catalan citizens
Article 155 is the threat hovering like a thundercloud over those in favor of holding an independence referendum without agreement with the Spanish Government. Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution foresees the State taking over the running of an Autonomous Community in the event that the region puts the fundamental interests of the State in jeopardy or violates the 1978 Spanish Constitution.
If the Spanish government were to decide to apply article 155 in order to block the October 1 vote, the president of the Catalan Parliament, Carme Forcadell, made it clear on Thursday that the Parliament will defend its sovereignty. Although she argued that she does not expect Spain to take such extreme measures: “this article has never been applied and its implementation is very difficult,” Forcadell said. However, if it were to happen, she insisted that the Catalan deputies would defend their rights as representatives mandated by the citizens of Catalonia and thus the sovereignty of the Catalan people.
The president also demanded a “phone call from the Spanish Government, an email or a What’sapp” and confirmed the willingness to talk on the Catalan side. In a conference at the Europe Forum-Catalonia Tribune, Forcadell explained that the Catalan government had tried 18 times to negotiate a referendum on the political status of Catalonia with the Spanish executive since given a majority mandate to do so in the 2015 election. She went on to point out that the so-called “operation dialogue” promoted by the Spanish government after the last election was a “cosmetic operation” as since the beginning of this campaign there have been more legal cases brought against pro-independence politicians than ever. “The courts have been the only dialogue with the State,” she said.
"The Catalan deputies will defend their rights as representatives mandated by the citizens of Catalonia and thus the sovereignty of the Catalan people"
Carme Forcadell · President of the Parliament of Catalonia
In her speech, Forcadell criticized the lack of separation of powers regarding the judicial system in Spain and pointed out that in 2010 around 1,400 judges and magistrates signed a manifesto calling for judicial independence and the depoliticisation of justice in Spain. As an example, the president of the Catalan Parliament mentioned the so-called “Operation Catalonia”, in which State institutions, such as the Ministry of Home Affairs, the former head of the Anti-Fraud Office in Catalonia, the national police and secret agents collaborated to create a smear campaign against political opponents, including Catalan pro-independence leaders. The most worrisome thing about it, according to the president, was the lack of legal investigation into these cases despite the evidence presented to the State Prosecutor, and the lack of political consequences. The former minister for Home Affairs is still a representative in the Spanish Parliament while the former head of the fraud office went back to his previous job as a judge.
Forcadell also brought up the example of Joan Josep Nuet from a pro-referendum party and member of the Parliamentary Bureau who at first was not included in the State Prosecutor’s accusation against members of the Bureau for voting on a resolution on an unilateral referendum, even though he had approved the same resolution. The explanation was, as Forcadell read out at the event, that “Joan Josep Nuet mistakenly acted in the belief that he was fulfilling his duties as a member of the Standing Committee. His great unwillingness to join the independence project stems from his background as a deputy [...] and, therefore, the complaint is not directed against Joan Josep Nuet.” When Nuet stepped forward in public insisting that as a democrat he had voted very consciously in favor of the resolution, he was finally included in the suit before the Catalan High Court of Justice "to avoid looking ridiculous", Forcadell explained. According to the parliament president, this judicial manoeuvre showed that the members of the Parliament Bureau were prosecuted not for their actions but for "who we are and what we think."
When asked about whether she has contemplated a victory for the “No” vote, Forcadell argued that all the results are possible and legitimate and will be accepted, but that the vote is absolutely necessary to solve this conflict politically.
The president of the Parliament was also asked about the perception of the independence movement in the rest of Spain. Forcadell admitted that unfortunately there was very little knowledge about what was happening in Catalonia and very little understanding of it.
Her declarations come after the former president of the Spanish government, Felipe Gonzalez, warned that article 155 could be applied in case of an infringement of the Constitution. The leader of the Spanish branch of the Ciutadans party, Albert Rivera, also mentioned this possibility but pointed out that his party will do everything possible in order to avoid this happening because “it would be a fantastic headline for Puigdemont” and claimed that there would be no vote on October 1 and that Catalan elections should be called.
In turn, the leader of the Catalan People’s Party, Xavier García Albiol, considers a possible application of article 155 as justified in order to stop the referendum.