The electoral campaign ends with squares crowded with protesters despite the Central Electoral Board’s ban
The protests of citizens across Spain asking for a new democracy has completely captured the last few days of the electoral campaign. The Central Electoral Board ordered the protests to stop from Friday midnight, as they coincide with the reflection period and election day. The Spanish Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court are expected to give their verdict this Friday. Protesters decided to resist in a peaceful way, while politicians have asked them to abide by the law and the electoral process, but at the same time have requested understanding the protesters. Authorities and police unions have warned about the risks of removing the people from the squares and it is believed that they will not intervene unless violence occurs.
Barcelona (ACN).- It is the last day of the electoral campaign and all media and politicians are talking about the citizen protests in Spanish squares. The electoral campaign has been completely caught up by the protest, which started on Sunday May 15th. Media and politicians are not talking a lot about what the protesters propose but about the possibility of them being removed by police. This Friday, at midnight, the citizen protests in Spain\u2019s squares face a challenge as the Central Electoral Board banned them from midnight. However, everything seems to indicate police will not intervene and protests will carry on at least until Sunday May 22nd, the election day. The Spanish Central Electoral Board said no demonstrations can be organised on the election day and the day before, known as the \u201Creflection day\u201D, where no campaign action can be carried out. The protesters vision completely differs from the Electoral Board\u2019s. They consider their protest to be legal because since they are not asking for people to vote in a certain way, and the movement is not backed by any political party or trade union, hence they are not campaigning in the elections. Therefore, they have decided to maintain the camps in the squares, at least until Sunday. Political authorities leaked that police will not intervene unless violent action occurs. In addition, the Spanish Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court are expected to give their say on the Electoral Board\u2019s ban.
On Thursday night 67 cities were already hosting camps in their main squares. Firstly Madrid and then Barcelona are, with great difference, the main focus of the protests. However, this Friday protests are taking place in up to 166 cities across Spain. The Electoral Board\u2019s decision obliges police to intervene and remove the people from the squares at Friday midnight, when the reflection day starts. However, the Spanish Vice President and Minister for Home Affairs, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, stated that police will not \u201Ccreate a hundred problems to solve one\u201D; \u201Cpolice will act following the opportunity and proportionality criteria\u201D. Catalonia, where the Catalan Government is running security and public order powers, will not be an exception. The Catalan Government\u2019s decision will be in line with the rest of Spain. Unless violent action takes place, police will not intervene. Protesters know this and they are asking citizens to come to the squares before midnight in order to pack the place with people. The objective is to make removal by the police impossible. And they are succeeding. Madrid\u2019s Puerta del Sol Square was already full of people before sunset, as well as Barcelona\u2019s Catalunya Square. In Catalonia, other cities such as Lleida, Girona, Tarragona and Tortosa are also hosting improvised camps. Protesters are asking people to bring flowers to offer to policemen if they come to implement the removal order; inspiration not only comes from Cairo\u2019s Tahrir Square but from the Portuguese Revolution in 1974.
However, maybe the flowers will not be necessary. Not only because police commanders will not order the removal of the people from the squares in order to avoid creating greater problems, but also because of the possible intervention of Spain\u2019s highest courts. \u2018Izquierda Unida\u2019, the Spanish Former Communist Coalition, turned today to the Supreme Court to rectify the Electoral Board\u2019s ban and enable the protests to continue. The Supreme Court started deliberating this afternoon and at the end of this edition its decision was still unknown. Besides, a lawyer from Murcia turned to the Constitutional Court to give its say on the issue. In 2010, the Constitutional Court already declared citizen demonstrations to be legal on the reflection day \u201Cif they were not interfering excessively with the electoral process\u201D, \u201Cif they were not asking for votes\u201D and \u201Cwere not organised by political parties or trade unions\u201D. Taken into account this sentence and both court\u2019s memberships, it could be expected that the Supreme Court will validate the ban but the Constitutional Court will prioritise the demonstration and congregation rights. In which case, the Constitutional Right ranks on top and protests could legally continue.
The campaign in Catalonia
In Catalonia, next Sunday\u2019s elections are only to elect the municipal councils, which will then elect the mayor and the city or town government. The election\u2019s attention focus is clearly Barcelona city, where the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition Convergència i Unió (CiU) has many chances to overtake the city government currently ruled by the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC). If this were to happen, 32 consecutive years of Socialist government will end in Barcelona, and Xavier Trias would replace Jordi Hereu as Mayor. It would be the first time CiU runs Barcelona\u2019s City Council and it could also change the political majorities of the Barcelona Provincial Council, dominated by the Socialists. However, the campaign in Barcelona has been intense and nothing seems completely decided, although all polls have been naming Trias as winner. The most likely scenario is Trias winning but with not enough seats for an absolute majority and thus having to reach an agreement with other political forces. The Conservative and Spanish Nationalist People\u2019s Party (PP) could be one possible ally as well as the Pro Catalan Independence Coalition \u2018Unitat per Barcelona\u2019 (UpB). However, a CiU-PSC government cannot be completely discarded.
In the rest of Catalonia, no other battles have got so much the attention nationwide as Barcelona\u2019s. Political change can happen in smaller cities and towns, and there local battles have been held, such as in Girona, Manresa and Badalona. The campaign has focused on local issues from each particular city, town and village. However, two main issues were central in most debates: the budget cuts and austerity measures, as well as immigration issues, especially in cities and towns with a numerous immigrant population. The first debate is an answer from the Left-Wing parties to the Catalan Government\u2019s austerity measures to cut public expenditure. Left-Wing parties accuse the Government, run by CiU, of reducing the public deficit by cutting public expenditure in social services. CiU insists that the quality of social services will be guaranteed and that austerity measures need to be taken as the previous Left-Wing Government left an excessive budget deficit. The second debate focuses on immigration, since some xenophobic but marginal parties put it in the centre of the political debate, but mainly because of the PP. The PP, especially in Badalona but also in Barcelona and other cities, has linked immigration with insecurity and social problems. In some cases, the main political parties have directly accused the PP of being racist, as some candidates of the PP accused immigrants of bringing back illnesses that had been eradicated years ago.