Once consummated the attack on the Rule of Law embodied in the passing and the publication without due process of the referendum law in the Catalonian Parliament, as well as the passing of the illegal referendum, we believe that some short comments on what happened are needed. The first and more evident is that coups d’etat in the 21st century are not being executed 23F-style (Translator’s note: the failed coup attempt in Spain on February 23, 1981), with armed Civil Guards entering the Parliaments, but Turkey, Poland or Venezuela-style, from inside the institutions themselves, whose true purpose and meaning is twisted and perverted. For this reason these coups are harder to recognize and the –evident- legal problems intertwine with those of legitimacy since Parliaments, as opposed to Civil Guards, are democratically elected.
From this blog [Hay Derecho] we have already explained in several posts that under the Rule of Law there can be no shortcuts and that no Parliament can break the rules of the game, no matter how big their majority might be. What they can do is to change those rules following the established procedures, and if they don’t have a sufficient majority or it is now within their purview, then they have to negotiate the required agreements and political consensus.
Luckily there are still jurists left in Catalonia that say the same things as we do from Madrid, which is much more commendable. So we would like to highlight the work of the Catalonian Parliament’s General Secretary, Xavier Muró, who declined publishing the text of the law in the official journal and gave orders to his subordinates to do the same (here).
Therefore, the juridical civil servants of the Parliament have defended, as their duty requires, the legality in force, being replaced in their tasks by the own MPs, who are obviously not jurists of the Parliament. It must also be noted that the position of the Statutory Guarantees Committee has been very clear stating that the procedure followed to pass the referendum law is illegal and infringes both the Catalonian self-government Statute and the Spanish Constitution (here).
In any case, the spectacle on September 6 couldn’t have been more grotesque, manifesting clearly that the abandonment of the known rules of the game open up infinite possibilities to the view that ‘anything goes’ and that ‘the end justifies the means’.
From ‘Hay Derecho’ we insist that the innumerable legal resources in the Spanish –and European- juridical system at the disposal of both the opposition MPs and civil servants who want to enforce their rights and guarantees must be employed. This must be done independently of tackling the extremely severe political, institutional and democratic crisis that these events have made evident but that already existed, and that the Government of the Popular Party refuses to acknowledge.
Now it’s time to stand up for the civil servants and professionals that defend the democratic Rule of Law in Catalonia, such as the civil servants and jurists of the Catalonian Parliament or the Registrars of the municipalities where the referendum is intended to take place. From ‘Hay Derecho’, we fully support and admire them since right now they are in the trenches where our future is at stake. The civil servants in the municipalities are the next dam that will be hit by the wave, those that will soon be harassed to twist the legality. Even so, we know for a fact that Mataró, Tarragona, Santa Coloma de Gramanet and Castell-Platja d’Aro, at least, have already decided against allowing the use of public premises for the referendum.
Nevertheless, the public servants, jurists and, in sum, the citizens, can’t be left on their own in the defense of the Rule of Law. This concept implies the renunciation of violence, of the possibility of taking the law into their own hands, and pursuing the self-interest without limits. These are ceded to institutions that, in return, promise to administer justice and to act in the best interest of the collective. If the State does not fulfill this role, it will lead to chaos, since nobody can be requested to be a hero. Or to tragedy, since in a conflict without rules the strongest will always prevail… or those most determined.
We do not have all the keys of politics, of the delicate balances and interests that influence the slow and complex machinery of the State. We don’t know if the passivity of the institutions is caused by factors that evade us. Regrettably, even though it is preferable to resolve conflicts in a rational and consensual manner, sometimes it is unavoidable to say enough is enough.
Rajoy’s address last Thursday is, in this sense, encouraging: even though we have often criticize him harshly, the contents of this speech are the correct ones. At least in the realm of words it could be on par with an editorial in ‘Hay Derecho’, since it states that what is not legal it is not democratic either, that Spain is not an imposition nor an improvised idea, highlights that the Catalonian statutory legality itself has been broken, supports the affected civil servants and shows understanding for the citizens whose feelings were hurt by absurd and unjustifiable actions and declarations. It is worth reading (here).
The only point in which we disagree is that “nobody could have ever imagined that we would assist to such a democratically deplorable show”. It was perfectly foreseeable because it has been announced for years without embarrassment and it has actually become reality. We hope that, now that the truth is apparent, the democratic Rule of Law can rise to the challenge and win.