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Can the use of article 155 be extended?

Photo by Giammarco Boscaro on Unsplash

Originally published in Spanish. ´¿Puede prorrogarse la aplicación del 155?´ Javier García Fernández. El País. 

14th May 2018

It’s legally not possible to extend the legal situation in Catalonia, much as we may suspect they’re back to the secessionist adventures.

After listening to Torra and the secessionist speakers, many people believe that the use of article 155 should be kept, since the president and the parties which support hime want to proclaim a republic and begin a constitutional process. This widespread frustration is understandable, but in a rule-of-law state the law must be followed, and that means that once a new cabinet is formed, article 155 measures cease to apply.

The Senate agreement from October 27th 2017 establish that the measures will be in place “until a new government is formed as a result a new election”. The election of a new president is not enough, but it also requires the swearing in of the whole cabinet, in accordance with the Catalan government law, this is to say, after the president is sworn in and de decree appointing the cabinet members is published. When these requirements are met, the measures of article 155 will cease to apply unavoidably because the Senate agreement does not foresee any extensions.

More so, even if the expressions uttered by the candidate and speakers during the debate are seditious, a debate is not an agreement and it would be premature to apply measures on the basis of statements from people who are not yet authorities (the candidate) or wont become authorities (the speakers). It would be a different matter if, along with voting in the president, they had also voted for some sort of seditious resolution, since that would entail legal substance.

Our legal framework does not allow for extending the measures being applied in Catalonia, no matter how much we suspect they are back to the secessionist adventure. The state will have to wait until the secessionists pass legal measures or act, in order to request a new invocation of article 155. But we shouldn’t just cross our arms in the meantime. Let’s analyze how it was applied the first time, what went wrong and what were the shortcomings, before we need to use it again, which won’t take too long. For example, public Catalan media should be intervened, since it’s not true that being under parliamentary control make them exempt from possible intervention. If the national government could dismiss a regional government that had the confidence of the regional parliament, they can also dismiss a council that depends on said parliament. Especially so if the Senate agreement displaced the competence for public media to the state level. In addition to the invocation of article 155, it seems necessary to anticipate the actions of secessionists with some other legal measures: updating the penal code to add specific types of actions against the state integrity, a fast amendment of the Constitution to regulate the absence of regional electoral laws in some regions and to establish the status of regional presidents as ordinary representatives of the state.

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