Published originally in Spanish. Soledad Gallego-Díaz. El País.
To get into the trap and to close the door: that is what the Catalonian Government want the Catalonians to do, with its insistence on celebrating an independence referendum on October 1st. To fall into the same trap that many other western societies are falling into, assuming the wear and tear of democratic rules as if it didn’t have any importance or it didn’t have consequences, in exchange of far and maybe impossible goals.
The trap of the Catalonian Government requires inducing a conflict between legitimacies -not legalities, which would have been less dangerous-, even risking an intense division in its own society. To top it all, it is possible that the Popular Party and the President of the Government, Mariano Rajoy, figure out that this conflict of legitimacies, clearly on his favor, could end up providing them even an electoral gain.
In many countries it is taking root a certain way to do politics that not that long ago would have been considered anomalous from a democratic point of view and that nevertheless we now see accepted, almost without notice despite the formidable danger that it represents.
They are untidy, careless rules, always subject to the dizzying scaffold that the ends justify the means, and set very damaging precedents. The law for juridical transience and foundation of the republic, drafted in an intentional secret in Catalonia by JxS and CUP, is an exotic specimen exhibiting that democratic carelessness presented as a juridical piece of work required to satisfy “the true people” (those who would vote “yes” in the rederendum) while what it really configures is some sort of exception status. Abrogating that law, in case it is passed, would not represent a suspension of the autonomy of Catalonia, but precisely the opposite: a return to the legality on an autonomous community.
The Catalonian Government is traversing against the clock the path of devaluation of democratic rules under the pretext of the supreme goal: the independence. But in fact what is happening is that the democratic rules that seemed cast in stone are being abandoned and becoming more blurred in Catalonia than in any other part of the estate. Many Catalonians accept the idea that there must be an independence referendum because there is a popular mandate, when there is not and there has never been. No matter how many times you are told otherwise in the last regional elections, the political parties supporting the independence did not get a majority of the votes. To top it all, this referendum doesn’t meet the democratic standards usually required. What is that strange figure of a “voluntary civil servant” that would supervise the voting? The civil servants are not “volunteers”, but people occupying, generally through a selection process, a position in the public administration.
The top officials of the Catalonian Government are trying to frame the situation as a conflict of legitimacies. It is possible that they believe that once the voting on October 1st is over they will be able to start up a new set of institutions derived from that law of transience, but it cannot be denied this procedure has already been used in other parts of the world (for instance President Maduro has just set it into motion in the often mentioned Venezuela), almost in all cases with catastrophic results. It is evident that a large part of the population will not vote, not because they don’t have an opinion respect to an eventual independence, but because they consider that it is a private referendum and deny its legitimacy. The only way forward for the conflict will be to celebrate, with maximum haste, new regional elections.