With the words "Long Live the Catalan Republic!" Carme Forcadell closed her opening speech as President of Parliament in the first session of the 11th Legislature of the Parliament of Catalonia.
Forcadell had been voted president by 77 out of 135 of her fellow deputies with 62 votes coming from her own party Junts pel Sí, 10 from the also pro-independence CUP and surprisingly 5 votes from Catalunya Sí que es Pot, whose 11 deputies wanted to make it clear that whilst not completely in favour of independence, being supporters of the right to decide, they do not want to be aligned with Ciutadans, Partido Popular and PSC, the parties that are completely against it.
In addition to giving heartfelt thanks to Núria de Gispert, her predecessor and the first woman President of the Parliament of Catalonia , Forcadell opened her speech by remembering Enric Prat de la Riba, President of Catalonia's first attempt at self-government in 1914, the Mancomunitat, Lluís Companys, President of Parliament at the start of the the Second Republic in 1931 and the President of the Generalitat throughout the Civil War, who was executed by a Francoist firing squad after having been handed over by the Gestapo, and Herribert Barrera, a member of the Generalitat in exile and the first President of the Parliament of Catalonia after the return of democracy.
The first half of the speech, though, mainly dealt with her institutional role as moderator of Catalonia's main democratic institution and Forcadell also emphasised that she wanted to preside a Parliament that belongs "to everyone, without exception".
The former ANC leader asked deputies "to be loyal to the people and work for the common good" and set an example "as an act of service". As a show of her willingness to preside a Parliament for everybody, Forcadell suggested that, Partido Popular and the CUP, the two parties without representation on the Mesa del Parlament, the parliamentary standing committee, should be present at meetings but without voting rights.
The second half of the speech, though, dealt with what Forcadell and her party, Junts pel Sí, see as the real purpose of this legislature; the beginning of a political process that will lead to the declaration of the independent Republic of Catalonia.
"Let's close the autonomic period and raise a new scenario that looks towards tomorrow. Let's play a leading role in a founding moment." she said. "We are constituting a sovereign parliament that wants to represent a free people. From a regional parliament with limited powers that are under attack to a national parliament with all its attributes."
She closed with the words "Let's start to move forward, let`s open the constituent process. The 11th legislature is officially constituted. Long live democracy, long live a sovereign people and long live the Catalan Republic!"
To round off, Forcadell called on the house to sing the Catalan national anthem Els Segadors and the non-independence parties, most notably Ciutadans and Partido Popular, ostentatiously refused to sing the national anthem of a country they don't consider a nation.
The dividing lines in this Parliament are very marked and for the first
time, deputies will not be seated in the house according to ideological
affiliation with socialists on the left and conservatives on the right.
In the 11th legislature, the pro-independence parties will be seated on the left of the chamber and the anti-independence parties, C's, PP and PP, along with the yet to be defined, Catalunya Sí que es Pot, will be on the right.
It was strange to see the President of the Generalitat in functions, Artur Mas, seated on the opposite side of the house.
He looked very comfortable and relaxed and despite reports that negotiations with the CUP, who don't want to invest him as President, are still blocked, it's hard to imagine that an agreement won't be reached at some point.
For the pro-independence parties, the day was highly symbolic and emotionally-charge. There is an obvious sense of urgency to begin the constituent process and the only way a new government can be formed is by investing a new President as soon as possible.
Another indication of the level of disconnection between Catalonia and the rest of Spain was the fact that Spanish President Mariano Rajoy's calling of general elections for December 20th received much less media coverage.
For around half the Catalan population, the only reason for participating in general elections in Spain is to have a pressure group in the Spanish Congress that will lobby for the creation of a Catalan Republic.
We have interesting times ahead, it seems!
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