Misc 04/09/2016

Carme Forcadell: “This started with a ballot, it’ll end with a ballot”

The Speaker of the Catalan Parliament, Carme Forcadell, met me just minutes after the Bureau of the chamber unanimously agreed to appeal the Constitutional Court’s injunction. She states that “you must never waive your right to defend yourself, you must leave every possibility open”.

Antoni Bassas
5 min
Carme Forcadell: “El dret de defensa s’ha d’exercir sempre, no pots tancar portes”

BarcelonaThe Speaker of the Catalan Parliament, Carme Forcadell, met me minutes after the Bureau of the chamber unanimously agreed to appeal the Constitutional Court’s injunction which suspended the conclusions of the constituent process study committee that were approved by the Catalan chamber on July 27.

Eventually, you have decided to appeal the injunction. Following the logic of Catalonia’s independence process, wasn’t this a good time to disengage from the Spanish system?

You must never waive your right to defend yourself, you must leave every possibility open. Besides, our Parliament represents all the Catalan people and it must defend itself.

The members of the Parliament’s Bureau must also submit an individual report. Have you sent in yours?

No, not yet. The deadline for me is September 15, but I don’t think I’ll wait until then. I will argue for free speech, the right to participate and the fact that anything can be discussed in the chamber; that’s why it is called a parliament. All I did was to perform my duty towards the Parliament to the letter.

By submitting your report to the Constitutional Court, do you reserve the option to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights?

Obviously, that’s another very important factor. All seven members of the Bureau are keeping their options open with the Strasbourg court.

The Spanish Public Prosecutor asked the Constitutional Court to report your actions to a court of law. The penalties associated range from a fine and disqualification to a criminal conviction.

I can’t see that happen. I did what I was supposed to do as Speaker of the Parliament.

If you proceed in the same vein because the Parliament represents the people of Catalonia and the Spanish state believes that if must continue to uphold the law, we will be stuck in an endless cat-and-mouse game. How long can you continue to disobey?

I’m not fond of using words such as “disobedience” and “contempt”, because that’s akin to judicializing politics, which is our true problem. It’s always the same and it’s been going on for too long. In the UK Mr Cameron saw that he had a political problem with Scotland and he resolved it politically. In Spain any dialogue is circumscribed to a court of law.

The political problem could also manifest itself in Catalonia, if the groups who oppose independence in parliament refuse to take part in anything which they regard as an act of disobedience. One day you might find yourself with a half-empty chamber.

Well, at the plenary session of July 27 absolutely everyone had a chance to voice their opinion.

Sure, but some MPs walked out of the chamber before the vote was held.

Still, everyone had a chance to be heard, even the members of the Bureau who disagreed with the vote. Any democratic country must defend everyone’s right to be heard. What will happen next is a question for those who walk out.

You are the Speaker, but also a Junts pel Sí (Together For Yes) lawmaker. Has your coalition opted for a head-on clash?

There is a very clear majority in parliament and, whilst showing the utmost respect for minorities, the parliament will do whatever that majority decides. Junts pel Sí has a road map which includes three political disconnection laws but, of course, everything is subject to change. There is a confidence vote on September 28 and, as I understand it, it is then when we will be able to explain how the independence process will culminate.

And what would the best way be?

For all of us to be allowed to vote. The independence road map includes a constituent election within 18 months, followed by the approval of a Constitution for Catalonia. But the confidence vote might add new elements, there’s always room for improvement. This started with a ballot and it’ll end with a ballot.

Does a unilateral referendum on independence (URI) strike you as a good option?

It’s not part of the road map but, as I said, there’s always room for improvement and it is my understanding that from September 28 that will be one of the options to be considered.

What would the difference be between a URI and the non-binding vote of November 9?

November 9 was a participatory process, whereas a URI would be a proper referendum. That is, a legally binding vote.

How can it be legally binding if Madrid does not recognise it?

That’s for the government —and the majority that supports it in parliament— to decide. Whether it can be done and how to go about it.

There is no confidence without a budget, right? Is there any point in prolonging this term, if the budget for 2017 cannot be approved?

Absolutely, without a budget the term would be over and we would have to hold a fresh election.

Many people are upset with you because they were looking forward to the extra funds from the 2016 budget, which was not approved.

What I feel the worst about is the fact that we cannot help those people. Our inability to help them has been our greatest failure this term, speaking as a citizen as well as the Speaker.

September 11, 2014 —when you urged then-president Artur Mas to hold a consultation—

came before the vote on November 9. Our National Day last year preceded the elections on September 27. What is September 11 about this year? Why should people demonstrate in the streets of Catalonia on our National Day?

Everyone should experience it as they wish, but it is a day of remembrance. One reason to rally on September 11 is to show our support for our institutions, such as the Parliament. Not so much for the individual people, but for the institution. The year ahead of us will be very intense. The budget must be approved, there is vote of confidence … There are many reasons.

How do you feel about Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau and her party’s leader in Madrid, Xavier Domènech, attending the rally?

It’s great news for independence supporters that Xavier Domènech will be in attendance, as well as the Mayor of the capital of Catalonia.

The ERC leader in Madrid’s parliament, Joan Tardà, and Francesc Homs, his PDC counterpart, both spoke to PSOE leader Pedro Sánchez during Rajoy’s failed confidence vote and said: “If you are willing to hold a Scottish-style referendum, we are willing to talk about helping you to form a government”. There was no answer. Would that be a good option?

I’ve always said that I wish the government in Madrid were open to dialogue, acknowledged Catalonia’s right to decide, self-determination for the Catalan people and, therefore, agreed to a referendum. I think it is unlikely to happen, very difficult. But if Pedro Sánchez agreed to it, then by all means.

Would you accept to run again on the Junts pel Sí slate?

In the circumstances that prompted me to accept, I would. If the circumstances were different, I’m not sure.

You have been the Speaker of the Parliament for ten months. What have you learnt during this time?

I’ve found that there are many excellent professionals, people who are very kind and others not so much. And, of course, I’ve come across some political spitefulness, but greatness too. It’s all nicely balanced.