In the run-up to the planned referendum on independence for the northeastern Spanish region of Catalonia, one of the worst initiatives seen from the premier, Carles Puigdemont, has been to involve Catalan mayors in the plan for the illegal vote. Not only has he requested their support to provide public spaces to serve as polling stations, but he has actually ordered it, in an abusive overstepping of his powers over local administrations.
Not only that, but he has also encouraged his followers recruit new people to rebuke mayors who are against the referendum, to pressure them, to overwhelm them, and to behave toward them as the organizers of intimidating escrache protests would. And of course, this encouragement has already had dramatic echoes, with insults and threats to dignified leaders who are simply rebellious in the face of illegal and abusive orders from the regional government, something that today in Catalonia is unfortunately beginning to constitute a type of heroism.
Rightly so, Núria Martín, the mayor of l’Hospitalet del Llobregat, a Catalan city outside of Barcelona, gave the president this recommendation: “Leave the mayors alone.” Socialist mayors have rightly demanded institutional respect.
What’s happening now is a step further of the increased institutional disregard that is being fanned by the secessionists
The attempt by Puigdemont and his allies to protect himself by using the secessionist mayors as a human shield has broken the institutional peace in Catalonia. It goes against social harmony and hinders the minimum degree of cohabitation required of the Catalan leadership at all levels.
But it should not be forgotten that the nationalism of the Democratic Convergence of Catalonia party never appreciated municipal autonomy. Under the rule of former regional premier Jordi Pujol, the Metropolitan Corporation of Barcelona – the grouping of some 20 municipalities neighboring the capital – was dismantled to eliminate competition.
So what’s happening now is a step further of the increased institutional disregard that is being fanned by the secessionists. Disregard of the judicial system, which is intended to carry out the laws of the executive branch, and contempt for the regional parliament, as was shown in the theft of rights and legislative resources of the opposition. And disregard for municipal powers that do not share their views.
These regrettable schemes have been followed by a legal process that has been used by secessionists to try to cover their aggressiveness toward the free mayors.
The prosecutor's office initiating an investigation of mayors, who have acted illegally by pledging to assist the referendum, may seem a drastic step, but it is inevitable from the prism of (enforced) compliance with judgments and rulings of the Constitutional Court.
English version by Debora Almeida.