Friday, June 21, 2019

Democracy with Spanish characteristics again

Last month, Catalans elected three exiled and jailed pro-independence politicians to the European Parliament. Unfortunately, Spain no longer seems to respect the results of democratic elections, and the Spanish Electoral Commission today declared their seats vacant. The reason? None of them had made the required oath to uphold the Spanish constitution before the Electoral Commission. But in all three cases, it is because the Spanish state did not permit them to.

Oriol Junqueras's case is the most outrageous. He is currently in pre-trial detention awaiting the verdict of his show-trial for "rebellion" and "sedition" for supporting the Catalan people's right to vote in an independence referendum. He was unable to make the required oath because the court refused to permit him to do so, regarding it as a threat to the trial process (MEPs gain immunity from prosecution, meaning that he could not be sentenced). The democratic process? Apparently unimportant. The exiles, Carles Puigdemont and Toni Comín, are in a different situation: they face arrest if they return to Spain, so they swore the oath before a notary in Belgium, and additionally sent their lawyer to the Election Commission to provide it by proxy - a process which the Commission has apparently deemed acceptable in the past. But as we've seen throughout this struggle, the rules change depending on what advantages the Spanish state, and it was refused.

Spain has used an arbitrary procedural barrier to thwart the expressed will of the Catalan people. It is naturally going to the European courts, and hopefully they will be able to restore democracy in Spain.