Thursday, July 28, 2016

Catalonia moves one step closer to independence, challenging Spanish tribunal

Yesterday the Catalan Parliament moved the stateless nation one step closer to independence by approving eleven conclusions of the Commission for the Constituent Process, step that had been explicitly forbidden by the Spanish Constitutional Court, court that had been explicitly declared irrelevant by the Catalan Parliament as well.

The eleven points were passed with 72 votes in favor (in a few instances with 83 as the 11 members of Catalonia Can Indeed, akin to United We Can, supported or abstained here and there). They are (my aproximate translation from the Catalan original):

1. Right now there is no room for the recognition of the right to decide of the Catalan People inside the constitutional juridical frame of the Spanish state. The only possible way of exercising this right is via the disconnection and the activation of a distinct constituent process.

2. The People of Catalonia has the legitimacy to initiate its own constituent process, that is also democratic, based on the citizens, transversal, participative and legally binding, with the recognition, support and backing of the Catalan institutions.

3. The compared experiences of other countries back the road taken by Catalonia to build a singular model of constituent process according to our own social, cultural, political and economic circumstances.

4. We must take care that the methodological frame of the constituent process remains consensual, known, transparent and shared by all society and the institutions backing it. The constituent process must have the capability of including all ideological sensibilities since the very beginning and also at the time of fixating the indicators, the calendar and all other questions that affect the method to move forward.

5. The constituent process will have three phases: a first one of participative process, a second one of disconnection with the state and call of constituent elections in order to conform a Constituent Assembly, which will redact a project of Constitution. In the third phase, it will be ratified at popular level through a referendum.

Puigdemont and Gabriel, leaders of the independentist movement
6. The preliminary participative process will have as main organ a Constituent Social Forum (FSC) made up by representatives of the organized civil society and the political parties. The FSC will debate and formulate a set of questions on specific contents of the future constitution that will be answered by the citizenry via processes of citizen participation. The result of this citizen participation will make a binding mandate for the members of the Constituent Assembly, who will have to incorporate them in the redaction of the project of Constitution.

7. After the citizen participation phase, the disconnection with the legal frame of the Spanish state will be completed through the approval of the laws of disconnection by the Parliament of Catalonia and a unilateral mechanism of democratic exercise that will serve to activate the call of the Constituent Assembly (AC). The laws of disconnection are not susceptible of control, suspension or impeachment by any other power, court or tribunal.

8. The Parliament of Catalonia backs the constituent process that has to be carried to term in our country. To that effect it urges the Government of the Generalitat to give to the citizenry the resources needed to be able to carry a grassroots constituent debate that remains transversal, plural, democratic and open. To that effect, the Parliament of Catalonia will create a commission for the following of the constituent process.

9. Once it is called, elected and constituted, the Constituent Assembly will enjoy full powers. Its decisions will be of compulsory fulfillment for all other public powers, as well as for physical and legal persons. None of its decisions will be either susceptible of control, suspension or impeachment by any other power, court or tribunal. The AC will establish mechanisms to grant the direct, active and democratic participation of individuals and the organized civil society in the process of discussion and elaboration of proposals for the project of constitution.

10. Once the AC has approved the project of constitution, a constitutional referendum will be called so the People of Catalonia approves or rejects in peaceful and democratic manner the text of the new constitution.

11. Since the beginning, a gender perspective must be incorporated in a transversal manner and with a dual strategy, in order to address the historical inertias of our society and that the constituent process will also be for all, women and men.

Spanish nationalists got very angry
The eleven points were backed by the coalition "Together for the Yes" (JxS, backed by the Catalan Party of the Democrats and the Catalan Republican Left, but with most seats occupied by independents, 62 seats) and the People's Unity List (CUP, a revolutionary left-wing grassroots independentist party, 10 seats). The coalition "Catalonia Can Indeed" (akin to all-Spain United We Can) voted in favor of points 2, 4 and 11 only, abstaining for points 3 and 8, while voting against the other six points, the ones that directly challenge the Spanish legal corset. They have 11 seats.

The People's Party (PP, 11 seats), which controls the caretaker government in Madrid, voted against all 11 points, while the Socialist Party (PSOE, 13 seats) rejected to vote altogether and the Spanish ultra-nationalist "Citizens" (C's) party (20 seats) stormed out of the building in anger. 

Spain has been without a functioning government for months

The timing of the Catalan step forward does not only seems to serve to mend wounds in the rather unstable pro-independence coalition between JxS and the CUP, whithered by disagreements on the budget, which was not approved (not "social" enough for the CUP), but also affects the stagnated negotiations for the formation of a government in Spain, in which the Catalan Nationalists may be decisive.

There are five possible coalitions with pure mathematics (176 seats are needed):

1. PP-PSOE or grand coalition of the two major parties, hampered by the subjective "need" of the PSOE to remain as "leader of the opposition" (otherwise leaving that role to the leftist upstarts of Unidos Podemos). Another major obstacle is the insistence of Mariano Rajoy, besieged by endless corruption scandals and rejected by every single other party, to be the candidate.

2. PP-UP: unrealistic, as they represent polar opposites.

3. PP-C's-PDC: they are all center-right parties but the former two are Spanish nationalists while PDC (former CDC) is Catalan nationalist, and they are in clear crash course these days. Hypothetically PP and C's could make very major concessions (a federalist reform of the constitution) in exchange of the latter deactivating the independence process but it is very hard to see how this could happen, much less after the new step towards independence taken in Barcelona and the declarations of PDC speaker, Mr. Homs, that they will not support neither Rajoy nor any other candidate of the PP. 

4. PSOE-UP-C's: seems most unlikely, as UP and C's are also polar opposites (socialism vs ultra-capitalism, federalism vs. ultra-centralism). The PSOE tried to do something like this (but with them governing solo, without seriously negotiating with UP) in the recent past and was rejected.

5. PSOE-UP-PDC-ERC-PNV, where PDC and ERC are Catalan nationalist forces (center-right and center-left respectively) and PNV is a Basque nationalist (or regionalist) one (center-right). This one used to be the coalition most favored by United We Can (UP) but has been harmed by the abstention of the peripheral nationalist forces in the formation of the board of Congress, which has been interpreted by some as flirting with the PP. For the PSOE, which is much strongly Spanish-nationalist, it is rather undesirable, particularly with the Catalan challenge going on.

There is a sixth possibility that adds up to 175 seats, exactly half of the Spanish Congress, which would include PP, C's, PNV and the small regionalist Canarian party PNC-CC (1 seat), which has already declared their intention to help in government formation, but it is a nightmare scenario for the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV), because there are regional elections this fall (late October in principle but may be moved forward to September) and for them allying with the rotten and rather extremist PP would be a major burden, no matter what they get in exchange. It would still be one seat short of a majority anyhow. 

The PNV has already said that Rajoy is a no-no and that they will demand a solution to the issue of ETA (disarmament, prisoners, etc., today blocked by the intransigence of the PP) but it has been rather ambiguous otherwise. In any case it is very difficult to imagine the PNV backing a government that represses the Catalan push for independence, it would be a major shame for them and could even start an internal rebellion: too much. 

So the conflict Spain-Catalonia is seriously affecting governance in Spain, although it is not the only issue: the irruption of Podemos (now Unidos Podemos, after they merged with United Left) and the endless spat of corruption scandals affecting the conservative PP also add up.

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