May 18, 2018
Ciudadanos pressures Rajoy on Catalonia
As we noted yesterday, Spanish liberal party Ciudadanos has gone from advocating a minimalist central government intervention in Catalonia last autumn, limited to calling new regional elections, to stronger demands. They want to extend the Spanish government control of the regional government, to pre-empt the as yet unknown policy action of the newly elected regional premier. The reason is two-fold. First, Ciudadanos is emerging as a contender for largest Spanish party in general election polls. And second, the newly elected Catalan PM Quim Torrà is widely seen outside Catalan separatist circles as a radical anti-Spanish xenophobe.
But Mariano Rajoy will have none of the demands for tough pre-emptive action presented to him yesterday by Ciudadanos' leader Albert Rivera. According to El País, Ciudadanos wants the national government to continue to control the regional government's finances, the regional police the Mossos d'Esquadra, and the regional TV station TV3. But the Spanish government's blueprint for intervention, which passed the Senate with the support of PSOE and Ciudadanos, foresees that the intervention will lapse as soon as a new regional government is formed. That's what was agreed, and Rajoy has no intention of changing it. Rajoy has the support of the PSOE for opposing Rivera's demands.
Meanwhile, as the legal case for charging the members of the previous Catalan government with rebellion seems to be increasingly fragile, PSOE leader Pedro Sánchez is advocating a reform of the criminal code to accomodate the definition of the crime to what happened in Catalonia. The legal debate over past months has been on whether the requirement of violence in the criminal code's definition of rebellion was met. This is also an important argument in the extradition case of former regional PM Carles Puigdemont before a German regional court. Pedro Sánchez could point to a number of academic commentaries in this debate, in support of the idea that in the 21st century new forms of political action require new definitions of crimes against the state. Those who argue in this direction point to the various Colour Revolution, as well as to the theorist of nonviolent action Gene Sharp. The problem with such arguments is that they come very close to what would be unacceptable encroachment on civil liberties in a liberal state. Be that as it may, with this proposal Pedro Sánchez attempts to keep the PSOE in what is otherwise a fierce competition between PP and Ciudadanos for the Spanish nationalist vote.