Spain’s Government des Juges strikes again
The ink of the political agreement between the Spanish socialist party PSOE and the Catalan center-left ERC is hardly dry, or Spanish judges strike again. The Central Election Commission (JEC) decided yesterday that Quim Torra should be dismissed as Prime Minister of Catalonia and that Oriol Junqueras cannot be an EU Member of Parliament, a decision that goes against what the European Court of Justice decided. Meanwhile, and despite its inviolability as an EU Member of Parliament, Spain’s court continues to hold Junqueras . It is putting pressure on the fragile agreement between the PSOE and ERC: the Catalan party decided yesterday to convene the party board this morning to discuss urgently.
Judges make and ‘dismantle’ Prime Ministers Catalonia
Quim Torra is deposed and is fined 30,000 euros for a banner hanging on the balcony of the Palau de la Generalitat , the Catalan government seat. First it was about different banners that demanded the release of the Catalan political prisoners, then about a banner about free speech. He eventually had the disturbing banner removed by order of the Spanish Central Election Commission. A quarter of an hour late. And so Torra is deposed by a committee consisting of five experts appointed by the political parties from the Spanish parliament and eight judges from the Supreme Court, where the posts are traditionally divided among the Partido Popular (PP) and the PSOE.
Torra also owes its Prime Minister to judges. Puigdemont was first excluded from the leadership of the Catalan government. Then it was the turn of the imprisoned Jordi Sànchez (former chairman of the ANC) and eventually Jordi Turull (Junts per Catalunya) was also excluded. The latter was transported to Madrid between his two investment sessions, on the orders of investigating judge Pablo Llarena, also responsible for the – three times rejected – arrest warrants against Puigdemont and co. Finally, Torra, as the fourth candidate, was sworn in as prime minister. In post-dictatorial Spain, Quim Torra can become the second Catalan prime minister to be deported, after Puigdemont. Their predecessor, Artur Mas, was excluded for a year from holding a public office, from organizing the referendum in 2014, in addition to the high fines that he received for it.
Governorate of Juges or Guerre des Juges?
It is not the only remarkable decision of the Central Election Commission: it also ruled that the imprisoned Oriol Junqueras (ERC) cannot be an EU Member of Parliament, a decision that goes against the ruling of the European Court of Justice. The decision was already taken by the spokeswoman for the Spanish socialists, Adriana Lastra, who “expressed serious doubts” about the competence of this Commission to make such decisions, which, moreover, are immediately enforceable. Pablo Casado (PP), Inés Arrimadas (Ciudadanos) and the extreme right-wing VOX, on the other hand, took pride in having ‘defended the rule of law against the separatists’ through their complaints to the Electoral Commission.
Several legal experts consulted by the Catalan newspaper ARA indicate that the Commission can indeed put Torra out of office, even if this conflicts with the Catalan Autonomy Statute (a Spanish organic law), which states that it is only up to the Catalan parliament to determine who is prime minister. The recent past indicates that it is not that simple. The experts do indicate that the statement finds an ‘aberration’. In the case of Junqueras, they even unanimously agree that the Commission has exceeded its competences. There is also great disagreement within the Central Election Commission itself: no fewer than 6 of the 13 members voted against the measures. The only thing left for Torra now is to appeal to the Supreme Court and ask for the immediate enforceability of his office to be suspended. The Catalan parliament will come together to reaffirm Torra as prime minister, a move that won’t do much. The Junqueras case is also awaiting a decision from the Supreme Court, which is studying the verdict of the European Court of Justice.
Catalan brother struggle
The political struggle in front of and in the courts first and foremost runs counter to the investment mood of Pedro Sánchez, which starts today in Congreso . At the same time, ERC’s party management is meeting this morning as an urgency to deliberate. The agreement with the PSOE is undoubtedly under pressure, even though foreman Joan Tardà (ERC) said that the agreement with the socialists must be maintained. That agreement received strong criticism from many indepes who are convinced that business cannot be done with the PSOE either. The PSOE-ERC agreement excels in ambiguity and is not very specific. On the one hand, it mentions a ‘recognition of the political conflict and the activation of the political path to resolve it’, so as to ‘transcend the legalization of the conflict’. On the other hand, a bilateral consultation is established between the Spanish and Catalan governments, the first consultation since a long time between both parties.
This agreement also received some criticism from Quim Torra and Junts per Catalunya (JxCAT; the party of Carles Puigdemont), who are disturbed by the fact that ERC concludes an agreement that involves the implication of the Catalan government without first discussing it in the same government. An irritated Torra spoke, according to ARA ,against his Deputy Prime Minister, Pere Aragonès (ERC), on a breach of confidence. Should Torra be deposed, it would be the same Aragonès that would become prime minister, a scenario that JxCAT does not like at all. The Prime Minister is the only major position that still holds Catalan center-right. For example, JxCAT would have already proposed to ERC to replace the Deputy Prime Minister with one of them, in preparation for the deposition of Torra. ERC would have refused this because it is not part of the coalition agreement.
In Catalonia, the Prime Minister is the only one who can dissolve the Catalan parliament, a power key that wants to get hold of both the “Juntaires” and the ERC. If Torra is effectively relieved from office, it is not inconceivable that he should first dissolve parliament. Then the brotherly struggle between ERC and JxCAT, which has recently taken on toxic proportions mainly on social media, can finally erupt. JxCAT is then considering using Puigdemont again, the only electoral factor of interest that remains for the party.