On 27th of October, the pro-independence parties in the Catalan Parliament, with the opposition absent and without the approval of the parliamentary attorneys, through a secret vote and a ballot box, tricking not only the Spanish constitution but also the Catalan Statute of Autonomy, voted for independence. We should remember that pro-independence parties obtained 47% of votes in the 2015 election; therefore, the representatives of less than half of Catalonia (70 votes out of 135 in the House, a 30% of total population) voted for the proclamation of a stillborn Catalan republic, with no international recognition and, above all, with the opposition of the other half of the citizens.
The plenary session was similar to that of 6th and 7th of September, when pro-independence MPs voted the same way, bypassing the rules of Parliament and their Statute, and against the parliamentary rights of the opposition groups, the Law of Juridical Transition and the Law on Referendum. The former, which sets the rules and regulations for the transition to independence, was set in motion after the solemn proclamation of the Catalan Republic.
What was different to the 6th and 7th of September is that this time there was an alert international press. After the anti-democratic coup in September, there was almost no reaction; there were not protests nor condemnations, in contrast with the responses after the police action upon the illegal referendum of October 1st. But on October 27th, the world was watching. And it also saw the solemn acts that followed the declaration —pro-independence mayors shaking their official batons and crying [in Catalan] “Freedom!”; all the pro-independence MPs chanting together with the mayors Els Segadors; Oriol Junqueras speaking of Christian values and the “equality before God’s eyes”, while some CUP MPs looked at each other with malicious smiles; the UN flag in one of the stairs of the Parliament… It is an authoritarian act covered with a mock legality, carried out by a pro-independence majority suffering from a pathologic voluntarism, and wrapped in a kitsch —and sometimes sinister— solemnity.
The pro-independence movement took to the streets to celebrate it outside the Parliament. Firecrackers were launched and there were chanting and dancing and tears. Thousands of people were also gathered in other Catalan cities. Simultaneously to the proclamation of the Republic in the Parliament, the Spanish Senate was discussing the enforcement of Article 155 of the constitution. It passed by 214 votes in favour, 47 negative votes and one abstention. The 214 votes in favour came from the Socialist Party (PSOE), Citizens (C’s) and Popular Party (PP); the negatives votes came from the leftist Unidos Podemos and its Confluences, the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) and the Catalan European Democratic Party (PDeCAT). At 8.15 pm, Mariano Rajoy, after a Special Cabinet Meeting, addressed the Senate to announce the Article 155 measures, published in the Official Bulletin of the State (BOE) in the early-morning hours, and currently into effect. Rajoy announced the “disolution of Parliament, called on election for 21st of December, the sacking of the Catalan government in full plus several senior officers and the closing of embassies”, as explained by Eva Belmonte in the website El BOE nuestro de cada día:
From now on, the ministers will assume the different Regional Ministries and Mr Rajoy will substitute temporarily the president Puigdemont, though he is delegating this functions to Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría. Additionally, the Catalan Council of Government will be substituted by the Council of Ministers. The text includes an appendix specifying which powers are assumed by each minister. For example: Finances and Civil Services, Cristóbal Montoro’s portfolio, will assume the Catalan Tax Agency and fiscal policy; the Home minister, Juan Ignacio Zoido, will assume the monitoring of the electoral process.
The Mossos chief, Josep Lluís Trapero, is also sacked; the Presidency and Vice-Presidency offices of the Catalan government, DiploCAT, the Advisory Council for National Transition are closed, along with an agency omitted by Mr Rajoy in his address: The Special Commission on the Violation of Fundamental Rights in Catalonia, created after the police intervention to prevent the referendum on October 1st.
The response from the Spanish government, that spent some days assessing the reach of the Article 155 and calling for regional election, hardly can be questioned for now. Last Thursday 26th, Carles Puigdemont was reportedly going to call regional election; the pressure in the streets and the internal pressure by hard-line independentists leaded him to change his mind. Cowardly, he delegated to Parliament the unilateral proclamation of independence. Cowardly too, the MPs that spent years speaking of repression and epics, rejoicing in their ludic and harmless revolution, voted in secret and with a ballot box to avoid repression and “tortures” (so was the low hit by the CUP MP Anna Gabriel).
The Article 155 leaves plenty of room for manoeuvre. For the moment, its purpose is the restoration of the legal order. A democratic sovereign state can hardly response some other way to prevent an illegal, illegitimate secession of part of its territory. And hardly can any democracy to accept something that not only goes against the whole sovereign territory, but against more than half of population as well, over which it claims full representation. The pro-independence movement represents a 30% of Catalan population and it obtained a 47% of votes. No democracy can accept such radical violation of parliamentary democracy, but it even goes against any democratic conception beyond the parliamentary one, whether plebiscitary or by assembly; it is an attempt to take the part for the whole, of supressing the rights of half of population. A pro-independence left that some years ago spoke of improving democracy, to widen the margins for civic engagement, that advocated for a more proportional electoral system, now accepts an unlawful interpretation of democracy, where all within the process is democratic, and everything outside is not.
What happens from here on, unless the state act disproportionally, or get carried away by the most extremist voices that speak of banning political parties, it will be exclusively the pro-independence parties’ responsibility. It is they who will have to deal with the massive frustration of thousands of independentists that took to the streets the September 27th to celebrate the Republic the moment the independence emerges as what really is: an unviable, anti-democratic project that radically polarizes a society already divided for some years now.
The following day to the declaration, Mr Puigdemont, in a pre-recorded appearance, said that he did not felt concerned, and called to “patience, perseverance and perspective”. He also insisted in something very usual in the Catalan process: pacifism. The pro-independence movement uses pacifism to justify all their acts. Since the Catalan process is a pacific rebellion, nothing can be held against it. He also said that it is a time for moderation and democracy —all authoritarian leaders like to say that they are democrats.