October 06, 2017
Catalan parliament session suspended
Catalonia produced yesterday two news items each of which would by itself top the front pages on a normal day: the Spanish Constitutional Court issued an injunction to prevent the Catalan regional parliament from meeting next Monday, and two major Catalan banks decided to move their HQ out of Catalonia. It's hard to tell which one will have the more far-reaching and lasting consequences, but we choose to tackle the political story first because the bank move was expected to some extent.
We reported yesterday that the board of the Catalan parliament had met to convene a plenary session next Monday where the regional premier Carles Puigdemont would assess the results of last Sunday's independence vote, in accordance with the referendum law that the Spanish Constitutional court had voided last month. This law mandated that, within two days of the official proclamation of an affirmative result in the independence referendum, the Catalan parliament must meet to declare independence. The Catalan socialist party PSC, the sister party of PSOE, reacted to this by appealing to the Constitutional Court. The PSC asked the court to suspend Monday's plenary session with Puigdemont, as well as any related future action. The party argued this was necessary to protect the procedural rights of MPs, and also pointed out that the board was intentionally ignoring the earlier injunction by the constitutional court voiding the referendum law. Yesterday, the court obliged and suspended Monday's plenary session.
The Constitutional Court argues in its decision that there is exceptional urgency in this case, as allowing the plenary session to go ahead could result in a damage impossible or too difficult to repair, in reference to a possible unilateral declaration of independence.
The parliamentary group of Podemos' Catalan sister party, CSQP, reacted to the court's injunction by asking the board to convene another plenary session for Monday with the same agenda - for the regional premier to discuss last Sunday's referendum - but with a different legal basis. The separatist groups JxS and CUP had asked for Puigdemont to appear on the basis of an article in the voided referendum law. CSQP is using an article of the rules of procedure of the Catalan Parliament, allowing any parliamentary group to request the appearance of the regional premier.
Meanwhile, the three major print newspapers in Catalonia have come out against a unilateral declaration of independence. There are indications that a large part of Puigdemont's party PdeCat is getting cold feet about its consequences. But the more radical part of the separatist movement wants to go ahead with a declaration, and it is unclear what the Catalan regional premier himself will decide to do. A meeting of the PDeCat executive was inconclusive, and leaves the final decision to Puigdemont according to El Periódico.
To top it all up, the Major of the Catalan regional police, Josep Lluis Trapero, is being investigated for sedition by Spain's national court. He has been summoned by a judge to declare today on the events of last Sunday, where the regional police apparently stood down and left it to the Spanish national police and Guardia Civil to carry out a court order to prevent the vote from taking place. The result was the police violence we saw on Sunday, which largely failed to prevent the vote. Along with Trapero, the judge has also cited the presidents of the grass-roots organisations Catalan National Assembly (ANC) and Ómnium Cultural. The definition of "sedition" in Spain's criminal code includes "rising up publicly and tumultuously to prevent outside legal ways the fulfilment of judicial resolutions".