Catalonia Calling! #05

Long Live the Catalan Republic? - 31/10/2015

Catalonia Calling #5 looks at the opening of the Parliament of Catalonia when the new president closed with "Long Live the Catalan Republic!" and the next day Junts pel Sí and CUP proposed a parliamentary resolution declaring the beginning of the Catalan independence process.

This was a pretty amazing start to the week from an independence point of view and it felt like the the new Republic of Catalonia was just round the corner for a couple of days.

However, as is always the case with Catalan politics, things got complicated and doubts set in as the week progressed, which is why I've added a question mark to Long Live the Catalan Republic.

Also you may have noticed that the name of the vlog has changed from What's Up Barcelona? to Catalonia Calling!. I think it reflects the political content a bit better but I've kept the numbering because I think this week's episode follows directly on from last week's. I hope that's not too confusing.


First Day of the Catalan Parliament

Monday saw the first day of the Catalan Parliament and the confirmation of former Catalan National Assembly president, Carme Forcadell, as President of the Parliament of Catalonia. She was voted in by 77 votes out of 135, which included the 62 votes of her own Junts pel Sí coalition and the 10 votes of the CUP plus to everybody's surprise 5 out of the 11 votes of Catalonia Sí que es Pot.

The new Parliament is very divided and, rather than the traditional left-right socialist-conservative division, for the first time the house will be divided into pro-independence parties, who will sit on the left, and unionist and undecided parties, who will sit on the right.

Her inaugural speech was in two halves with the first talking about consensus and being 'everybody's president' whilst the second dealt with the real task of the parliament, which is preparing the way for independence. She closed with "Long live democracy, long live a sovereign people and long live the Catalan Republic!"

Along with many others, I think Forcadell is a great choice. The fact that one of the leaders of the grassroots movement that inspired the independence movement now occupies one of Catalonia's main institutional positions shows how the country is changing. Most independence supporters identify very strongly with Forcadell. The same can't be said of the unionists, though. In fact, the PP has released a video describing Forcadell as the "president of hate".

Almost unnoticed, well, here anyway, went Spanish President's announcement that Spanish Congress was now officially closed and that there would be general elections on December 20th.

Declaration of the Initiation of the Independence Process

The bombshell on Tuesday was the signing at around 11 o'clock of a document officially announcing the start of the independence process. The signatories were Jordi Turrull and Marta Rovira of Junts pel Sí and Antonio Baños and Anna Gabriel of the CUP.

I've translated the document into English so look for the link in the description but out of the nine articles there are three that really grab my attention.

"TWO: Solemnly declares the beginning of the process of creating an independent Catalan state as a republic." Pretty straightforward!

"SIX: As trustee of the sovereignty and expression of constituent power, we reiterate that this Parliament and the process of democratic disconnection will not be subordinated to decisions of the Spanish State, in particular the Constitutional Court, which we consider discredited and without power as a result of, amongst other things, the sentence of June 2010 on the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia, which had previously been voted on in referendum by the people." The CUP wanted to include the word disobedience in the document but this is effectively saying that the rulings of the Constitutional Court will no longer be considered valid.

"EIGHT: Urges the future government to only carry out those rules and mandates emanating from this legitimate and democratic chamber in order to protect the fundamental rights that may be affected by decisions of the Spanish State." This is announcing the legal break between Catalonia and Spain so obviously as new laws are passed by the Parliament of Catalonia they will take precedence over Spanish laws and any new Spanish legislation specifically designed to curb Catalan independence will be ignored. Also bear in my the idea of transitory legality - in order to have a normal country all Spanish laws will be valid until they are superceded by new Catalan laws.

Attacks from Spain

Following the raid on the Convergència offices last week on the same day as Artur Mas signed the decree calling for the opening of Parliament, on the day the Declaration of the Initiation of the Independence Process was signed, more than 200 Spanish National Police raided the houses of the Pujol family. The eldest son Jordi Pujol Junior was actually at his parents' housing convalescing from an operation so the ex-president was on the news footage, which obviously has a much more detrimental media effect.

By no means am I even suggesting that Pujol and his family are innocent of tax evasion and a whole lot more financial but it's pretty obvious that the dates for the raids are chosen to coincide with symbolic events in the Catalan independence process.

Convergència has always been a party of botiflers, Catalans who are bought out by Madrid and become collaborators, but as I argue in my History of the 3% article, I'm convinced Artur Mas has done his best to clean up the party and is innocent. The misdemeanours of the children of the former party leader have absolutely nothing to do with him or the current CDC leadership but seeing anyone associated with the party being arrested has a terrible effect on the party's image. It's also interesting that Unió now they've unhooked themselves from the independence process haven't been subject to any police raids.

Not content with manipulating CDC's image as a bunch of criminals, on Wednesday the government started on the CUP, who they claim are a bunch of terrorists and arrested 8 anarchists under suspicion of terrorism. What was even worse, the Audiencia Nacional used the Catalan Mossos d'Esquadra police force, which increased tensions between the CUP and CDC, because the Mossos are controlled by CDC Catalan Minister of the Interior, Jordi Jané.

The result was that the CUP withdrew from negotiations briefly and there's still no agreement on the investiture of Artur Mas.

The New 9-N

November 9th, which is the last date when the first vote on the investiture of the president will be made and is also the anniversary of last year's proxy referendum (you can read my 9-N article here), is becoming increasingly crucial.

Although I have no idea whether an agreement between Junts pel Sí and the CUP will be reached, I firmly believe that the investiture of Artur Mas is one of the few ways that the process continues moving forward. His moderate image is essential for international recognition. If the image is too radical left before we obtain independence, Europe will turn its back on Catalonia. Just look at what's happening to Greece and Portugal. I'm not justifying the EU's behaviour but if we want international recognition we have to play ball.

Procedural motions by Ciudadanos and PSC and the fact that the PP parliamentary group mean that November 9th is the first date that the Parliament of Catalonia can vote on the proposed Declaration of the Beginning of the Independence Process resolution. This is going to make it an extremely symbolic day.

Remember that if no agreement is reached on the investiture of the president by January then new Catalan elections will have to be called for March. This might mean that the project for a Catalan Republic is a very short-lived affair.

Spanish General Elections

As the week came to a close Mariano Rajoy made a speech before UN members calling on the international community and also had a round of meeting with other Spanish party leaders. Pedro Sánchez (PSOE) and Albert Rivera (Ciudadanos) were clear on their defence of the unity of Spain whilst much to his credit Pablo Iglesias is openly arguing in favour of a referendum.

Bearing this in mind, mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau announced that her coalition, Barcelona en Comú, will be standing at the general elections within a broad left-wing coalition, including Podemos, Initiativa and others, probably under the name of Podemos en Comú (I think!) This is a worry for the pro-independence movement because such a coalition could well mop up CUP votes who won't be standing.

To close the week, Convergència and Esquerra Republicana announced that they won't be repeating the Junts pel Sí formula for the general elections and will be standing separately with elements of the programme in common. There are pros and cons to all this, which I'm sure I'll have the chance to discuss

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