Podemos swears to abide by Constitution “in order to change it”

Senators reprimanded by speaker for using regional languages such as Galician

Constituent assembly in the Spanish Senate on Wednesday.
Constituent assembly in the Spanish Senate on Wednesday.Fernando Alvarado (EFE)

During a constituent assembly of Spain’s Congress, such as the one that took place today, new deputies are required, one by one, to state that they will abide by the Constitution. The formula used is a “promise” or “swearing” to adhere to Spain’s Magna Carta. But today, all of the deputies of emerging left-wing group Podemos and its affiliated deputies added a postscript to their declarations.

“I promise to abide by the Constitution and work toward changing it,” said many. In the Senate, meanwhile, some parliamentarians – also from Podemos and its regional platforms – made their statements in Castilian Spanish, Basque, Catalan or Galician.

Never more will there be a country without its people and without its nations. For the sovereignty of the people, for a new Spain” Podemos political secretary Íñigo Errejón

When it was his turn, the political secretary of Podemos, Íñigo Errejón, had this to say: “I promise to abide by the Constitution and work to change it. Never more will there be a country without its people and without its nations. For the sovereignty of the people, for a new Spain, per la fraternitat entre els pobles [for brotherhood between nations, in Catalan].”

The leader of Podemos, meanwhile, Pablo Iglesias, used sign language during his statement.

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In the Senate, María Eugenia Iparragirre, of the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) swore her role as senator in Basque and then in Castilian Spanish, after being recalled to do so by the speaker of the house. “In this session there are no interpreters, so out of deference for your colleagues I ask you to say it in Castilian,” said Pío García Escudero.

But the faint jeers Iparragirre received when she spoke in Basque were nothing compared to the reaction of the majority of the Senate when the new Podemos senators took the floor. Using Basque, Catalan or Galician, most of the representatives of Pablo Iglesias’s party stated that they were promising to abide by the Constitution “out of legal necessity.” Two of them swore “to the Catalan Constitution,” another “to put this house at the service of the right to decide for all of the peoples of the world,” and another four swore “until the creation of the Catalan Republic.”

Xavier García Albiol, the head of the Catalan Popular Party and a new senator, raised cheers from his colleagues with his response. Do you swear to abide by the Constitution?” he was asked. “I swear to do so as a Catalan and proud Spaniard,” he replied.

The faint jeers Iparragirre received when she spoke in Basque were nothing compared to the reaction when the Podemos senators took the floor

The tensions between the defenders of a referendum on independence in Catalonia and the rest of the senators was palpable during the session.

Another Podemos senator, meanwhile, Virginia Felipe, who suffers from a rare disease that has confined her to a wheelchair, promised to work toward “a fairer world for all.” Pilar Lima, Spain’s first deaf senator, swore her role with the help of an interpreter.

At the end of the session, the Senate speaker followed protocol, stating that “having sworn to abide by the Constitution, you have acquired the condition of senator.” He then deviated slightly from the script, and thanked them in Castilian Spanish, Catalan, Basque and Galician.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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