The Latest from Catalonia: Elections and Political Prisoners

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Catalonia is Preparing a Unified List of Candidates to Defend its Independence

Photo credit: El Món

Sources: Vilaweb, The Guardian, El Nacional / The Dawn News / November 10, 2017

Catalonia’s president in exile, Carles Puigdemont, has expressed his enthusiasm for the unitary list and his will to be the frontrunner

Last Tuesday (November 7) was the deadline for the formation of coalitions of parties for the upcoming elections in Catalonia, next December 21. The deadline passed without the parties reaching an agreement—and with some criticisms exchanged—between PDeCAT, ERC and CUP on the creation of a coalition, despite the calls made by Carles Puigdemont and some pro-independence sectors to act in a unified manner. So now, the proposal of the pro-independence movements is to make pacts for common proposals for their electoral programs. At the same time, a group of social leaders, including Puigdemont, set forth a complex initiative to create a unified list, taking advantage of the fact that the deadline for electoral candidacies is not until November 17. This list is called “October 1st Unified Candidacy ”.

The collectives lista.cat.cat and Respuesta.cat have decided to join forces to achieve a common goal: pressure the political parties to build a unitary list of candidates that brings together the political prisoners, the president and the councilors in exile, those charged by referendum on the 1-0 and mayors who participated in it. The goal is to restore the legitimate Government, they explained on Friday at a ceremony at the Ateneu Barcelonès.

The chosen name is ‘unitary list October 1’. Its program intends to restore the imprisoned and exiled Government, so that officials can return to their seats. The two groups trust that this initiative can achieve the absolute majority in the elections of December 21, both in seats and in votes.

“We will only win the elections if they are raised as referendum items between the pro-155 block [which stands for the Spanish intervention of Catalan institutions] and the block of those who are for the Catalan Republic,” they said.

Whether this candidature will end up acting as a single list will depend on the performance of the different independentist parties. In case the PDeCAT, Esquerra Republicana and the CUP, which decided to register their own candidacies, the ‘unitary list October 1’ would be a fourth independentist list, which would compete with the other three, and would not achieve its goal to be the only list.

The proponents of the unitary list say they have the support of the president of the Catalan National Assembly, Jordi Sànchez , who from jail has given his full support. However, sources from the ANC say that the sovereign entity does not support it, because they consider it a fourth independentist list, and not the unitary list which they have supported from the beginning. If they have the support of Sánchez, it is a “personal position”, not his position as president of the ANC, they clarify.

At the act at the Ateneu Barcelonès, there were several high-level functionaries of the Generalitat of PDeCAT, such as the delegate of the Government in Madrid, Ferran Mascarell, the interdepartmental coordinator, Elsa Artadi, or the director of the Public Administration School, Agustí Colomines. The PDeCAT is the party that has bet -and it still does- on the unitary list.

Catalonia’s president in exile, Carles Puigdemont, has expressed his enthusiasm for the unitary list and his will to be the frontrunner.

Puigdemont assured that he felt he had the moral duty to defend this option and that it was a good response to the imprisonment and repression of Spain.

He also said he would like political parties to be included, especially taking into account the events of recent days, where independentist leaders have been imprisoned.

Some political prisoners have been released

The president of the Parliament, Carme Forcadell has avoided jail after paying a 150,000 euro bail.

The speaker of the Catalan parliament has been granted bail after telling a judge that last month’s declaration of independence was only symbolic and promising to respect the Spanish constitution in the future.

Carme Forcadell and five other parliamentary officials appeared at Spain’s supreme court on Thursday to testify over the roles in the banned independence referendum and the subsequent vote on declaring independence.

Forcadell left the Alcalá Meco prison outside Madrid on Friday after paying €150,000 bail. Four of the other lawmakers were ordered to pay bail of €25,000, while another member of the governing body was questioned and released without bail.

The six, who face possible charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds, were questioned by Judge Pablo Llarena and two prosecutors throughout the day.

Lawyers familiar with the proceedings said Forcadell had testified that the independence vote held in the Catalan parliament on 27 October was “declarative and symbolic”, adding the move was intended to minimise her liability if she were charged.

Forcadell and other members of the deposed government had previously insisted that the referendum and its results would be legally binding.

Llarena wrote in his ruling: “All the accused … have expressed that either they renounce future political activity or, those that remain active, will in future renounce any actions outside the constitutional framework.”

The judge also said that while citizens could legitimately support “an idea of independence … it can be excluded that the accused aspired to gain independence through legal means”.

 

Context

On Monday, Spain’s attorney general announced that he had asked the national court to bring charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds against 14 members of the Catalan government, including the president, Carles Puigdemont, while the supreme court would look into possible action against Carme Forcadell, the speaker of the Catalan parliament, and other parliamentary officials for the part they played in paving the way for the independence vote on 1 October.

However, it soon emerged that Puigdemont and five of his ministers had travelled to Belgium the previous night. The Catalan president has refused to return to Spain until he receives guarantees that he will face a fair judicial process.

Then on Thursday, a national court judge remanded eight members of Puigdemont’s cabinet into custody pending possible charges. She said the Catalan leaders –including Puigdemont’s deputy, Oriol Junqueras– represented a flight risk.

On Friday, the judge issued a European arrest warrant for Puigdemont and four of his former ministers.

 

What happens next?

Moves to extradite Puigdemont from Belgium could take months, if not years. The next key date will be 21 December, when Catalonia goes to the polls to elect a new government. Pro-independence parties are already billing the vote as a de facto plebiscite on independence and will be hoping that recent events have won more supporters to their side.

The Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, has repeatedly ruled out a Scottish-style referendum (where citizens are asked whether they want independence or not), arguing the constitution is very clear when it comes to the “indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation”.

The constitution could be amended but such a move would require agreement and a sizeable dose of goodwill from all the relevant parties. The only certainty is that the Catalan crisis is very, very far from over.

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