The Catalan Parliament kicked off its 9th term by electing Bureau

As expected, Núria de Gispert became the first woman to chair the Catalan Parliament, which has its origins in the 13th Century and is one of the oldest Parliaments in the world. The Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU) holds 4 of the 7 positions within the Bureau, including the chair. The Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) has 2 posts and the Catalan People’s Party (PPC), 1. The 4 smaller parties were not represented in the Bureau.

CNA / Gaspar Pericay Coll

December 16, 2010 10:45 PM

Barcelona (ACN).- The new political term officially started today in Catalonia. The 9th Catalan Parliament since the restoration of democracy and autonomy was officially formed today. The new Parliament’s Bureau was elected. The assembly will be chaired for the first time by a woman, Núria de Gispert, from the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition, Convergència i Unió (CiU). Weeks before the elections, it was announced that if CiU could obtain control of the Parliament, the Christian-Democrat de Gispert would chair it. When the CiU coalition ruled Catalonia between 1980 and 2003, the Presidency of the Catalan Government went to the Liberal Party, Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya (CDC), and the Parliament’s chair went to the smaller Christian-Democratic Party, Unió Democràtica de Catalunya (UDC). The rest of the Parliament’s Bureau was occupied by 3 MPs from the CiU, 2 from the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) and 1 from the Conservative People’s Party (PPC). The 4 smaller parties within the Catalan Parliament did not get a seat in the Bureau. The Bureau sets the Parliament’s agenda and session calendar. It is the governing body of the chamber. The President of the Catalan Parliament is the second authority of Catalonia, after the President of the Catalan Government. Next week, the Parliament will meet again to elect the Catalan President. It is expected that Artur Mas will be elected in the second voting, which is scheduled on the 23rd of December. Considering the Christmas break, Mas would likely take office on Monday the 27th of December.

Out of the 135 MPs, Núria de Gispert received 77 votes. She got all 62 votes from CiU, the largest group in the Parliament, without an absolute majority, and 15 votes from Socialist and Conservative MPs. Other Socialists and Conservatives abstained, as well as the other groups’ MPs, except for one. The 4 MPs of the Centre-Right Catalan Independence Party, Solidaritat per la Independència (SI), voted for their own candidate. There was also a spoilt vote. The voting was secret, but political groups previously agreed on the Bureau’s composition, made public yesterday. Each group gave then instructions to its MPs to vote for a candidate or another.

Núria de Gispert is a respected jurist, who held positions in several ministries within the CiU’s Catalan Government from 1995 to 2003. For 7 years, she was the Catalan Minister for Justice, though she had a 1-year break when she headed the Ministry for Public Administration between 2001 and 2002. When she went back to the Ministry of Justice in 2002, she also assumed the Ministry of Home Affairs, in charge of the Catalan Police. De Gispert is a person well regarded by all the groups. She is recognised for her intellectual capacities, honesty and open-personality. Now, de Gispert is the second authority of the country, after the Catalan President.

The Catalan Parliament’s Bureau is the governing body of the chamber, in charge of setting the agenda and the session calendar, as well as implementing the Parliament’s budget and ensure the Parliament’s funtionality. It has a President, who is now Núria de Gispert, 2 Vice Presidents and 4 Secretaries. All 7 were elected today. The first Vice President is Lluís Maria Coromines, from CiU. The second Vice President is the Socialist Higini Clotas. The 1st Secretary is Jordi Cornet, from the PPC. The 2nd Secretary is Montserrat Tura, from the PSC. Tura has been the Catalan Minister for Justice for the last 4 years and was previously the Minister for Home Affairs, taking office just after de Gispert left in 2003. Tura is also a leading figure within the PSC and could be its next leader. The other 2 Parliament Secretaries, Josep Rull and Dolors Batalla. are also from CiU, getting 4 of the 7 Bureau’s positions. The Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC), which held the Parliament’s Presidency for the last 7 years, was left out of the Bureau. In the new Parliament, the ERC only has 10 seats (it got 21 in the old one). The Catalan Eco Socialist Party (ICV-EUiA) has also 10 seats and did not get a seat in the Bureau either. The 2 other small groups without representation are the Right-Wing Catalan Independence Party (4 seats) and the Anti-Catalan Nationalism and Populist Ciudadanos (C’s), which has 3 seats.

Catalan President to be elected next week

After electing the Bureau, the next important decision for the Catalan Parliament is to elect the President of the Catalan Government. The leader of the CiU, the coalition that won the last elections, has enough support to be elected the next Catalan President. CiU leader Artur Mas has the 62 votes of CiU’s MPs. The absolute majority is though 68 votes. Mas needs the support of other MPs to be elected in the first voting. However, he could be elected by a simple majority in the second voting. Núria de Gispert scheduled the election debate for next Monday and Tuesday. The first voting would thus be on Tuesday, the 21st of December. Mas is not likely to get enough support. In this case, the second voting would be held on Thursday, the 23rd of December. It is very likely that on this day, Artur Mas will become the 129th President of the Catalan Government (the 4th after the restoration of democracy and the autonomy in 1979).

The powers and history of the Catalan Parliament

Catalonia has autonomous legislative and executive powers from the Spanish State. The Catalan Parliament is the centre of this legislative power. It has a single chamber of 135 MPs, which is governed by a Bureau, elected today. Catalonia has a parliamentary regime. As such, the Catalan Parliament elects the President of the Catalan Government, Catalonia’s main authority and head of executive power. The Catalan Parliament controls the Catalan Government’s actions; it approves the Catalan Government’s budget and elects many positions within the public sector, such as the Catalan Ombudsman or the Director of the Catalan Broadcasting Corporation. The Parliament has wide legislative powers in many areas, such as education, health, social affairs, culture, media, agriculture, tourism, industry, economy, taxation, security, and justice. The Catalan Parliament gets its powers from the Catalan Statute of Autonomy, Catalonia’s Primary Law.

The Catalan Parliament has its origins in the Medieval assemblies of the 11th century, but it did not act as a real Parliament until the end of 13th century. In the 13th century, the Catalan Parliament was gradually reorganised and opened to the bourgeois statement. However, the most important step came in 1283, when a constitution was approved, recognising the “agreed sovereignty”. It was established that the only valid rules would be the ones agreed between the King and the Parliament. The King was forced to consult and find an agreement with the Parliament; he thus stopped being the only one with legislative power. Already in the 13th century, the Catalan Parliament had thus real legislative powers and some degree of control over the executive. Changing its name and functions, but keeping the principle of “agreed sovereignty”, the Catalan Parliament mutated during centuries. However, in the early 18th century, after the Spanish Succession War, when Spain was officially formed and a centralist king was crowned, Catalonia lost its own rights and self-government institutions, including the Parliament. It was restored in 1931, with the Second Spanish Republic and the first Catalan Statute of Autonomy. However, the Fascist dictatorship of Franco ruled over Catalonia from 1939 to 1977. The Catalan Parliament survived in exile, first in Paris and later in Mexico. With the Second Catalan Statute of Autonomy in 1979, the Catalan Parliament was restored. The first elections were held in 1980 and the 1st term of the current Parliament kicked off in April of 1980. Today Núria de Gispert became the first woman to chair the modern Catalan Parliament, but also one of the first Parliaments in the world’s history.