The independence declaration that was approved on Friday by the Catalan parliament has sparked the most serious constitutional crisis that Spanish democracy has faced in its 40 years of existence. The potential for destabilization of the current situation exceeds even that of the attempted coup d’etat in 1981, or terrorism. The threat that the declaration of independence casts over our democracy does not find its origin in the irrationality of just a few, but in the deeply serious matter of how a regional government and parliament could not only rise up against the Spanish Constitution, fomenting a popular insurrection, but also call on the international community to recognize its unilateral breakaway.
Under Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, the Senate, with the support of the Popular Party (PP), the Socialist Party (PSOE) and Ciudadanos, has approved a series of measures, including the removal of the regional government and the dissolution of parliament, aimed at restoring constitutional law. And it has done so in a legal and transparent way, with a clear and legitimate majority of 214 senators: the complete opposite of what we have seen in a parliament that has been subjected to, once again, a shameful spectacle, including a pathetic secret vote where the pro-secession supporters, with their 70 votes, failed to reach the qualified majority needed to reform the regional Statute that sets out the self-government powers of Catalonia.
The pro-independence forces have topped off their farce as they have always done: ignoring the rules and steamrolling over minorities along the way. It is lamentable that the traditional representatives of Catalonia, who have brought the region its best years, have thrown themselves into the arms of an anti-establishment, anti-European group such as the CUP, which the Junts pel Sí party needed to prop up its minority government. This strange collation, brimming with populism, preferred to embark on direct conflict with the state rather than recognize the failure of its project and the subsequent internal tensions.
The measures contained within Article 155 do not represent an assault, neither on self-government nor on the rights and freedoms of the Catalan people. On the contrary, they are the legitimate and necessary response from the rule of law to the challenge laid down by irresponsible and reckless political leaders who have decided to rise up against the Constitution and the regional Statute.
There is no greater vileness – as we have seen in recent years, day after day – than to fraudulently make use of institutions simply to degrade them and override them. As such, as well as the political actions already put into place by the government, it is vital to demand that the justice system act with complete rigour against the protagonists of this situation, those who, in full knowledge of what they were doing, made this deplorable declaration of independence.
We are in a moment of extraordinary severity, in the face of which there can be no doubts, hesitations or equidistance. The past actions, errors or omissions that could serve to explain the roots of this pitiful situation, which no doubt are many and varied, all now are relegated to the background. Because the decision to declare independence on the part of the regional government, presided over by Puigdemont and the parliamentary groups Junts pel Sí and the CUP, consist of an assault of such a huge caliber on the democracy that was established in this country, with great effort, that the only thing that is left for democrats is, after expressing their sadness for such a gratuitous demolition of coexistence, to act with the greatest diligence and efficiency to restore the constitutional order immediately.
The state, which acts in the name of the citizens and democracy, can and must triumph with this task, and must do so in a clear way and with complete confidence in itself. On the path that will now begin, as delicate as it will be difficult to complete, there can be no doubts about the validity of the Constitution and the future of coexistence. For this, the government is counting on the support of all those citizens who want to continue to live in a democracy that is worthy of the name, as well as the support of the international community and its European partners, who have repeatedly shown their solidarity and concern over the foolish attempt to try to force a unilateral separation from Spain.
Spanish democracy, with the support of everyone, will prevail. And it is going to manage to return the institutions of self-governance to the Catalans. With the dissolution of parliament and fresh regional elections on December 21, Rajoy is doing what Puigdemont should have done but didn’t dare. He is thus proving that the use of Article 155 does not restrict the rights of parliamentarians nor of the citizens who choose them, and counts on the support of democrats inside Spain and all of Europe. And it clears the way for a quick, legal and legitimate resolution of the crisis in accordance with the democratic principles of a vote – one that certain figures wanted to evade.
English version by Simon Hunter.