Misc 19/01/2021

The Government reactivates February elections, but will contest High Court decision

It maintains that it cannot take further steps to ensure the safety of the election if it is not postponed

Núria Orriols Guiu
3 min
La portaveu del Govern, Meritxell Budó, i el vicepresident, Pere Aragonès.

BarcelonaAfter hearing the decision of the Catalan High Court to provisionally maintain the call for the February 14 elections, the executive has reactivated the electoral process to give "legal certainty" to citizens. However, it has already advanced that it will defend itself before the High Court to finally get it to endorse the postponement until 30 May.

Both the spokesperson, Meritxell Budó, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bernat Solé, have defended that the decision to postpone the elections has a "solid" legal basis, despite the challenges, and have asked for "speed" to the High Court to resolve the matter as soon as possible.

Until then, Solé, who is responsible for the electoral process, said that all the actions that had to be carried out from now on, such as the constitution of the polling stations or the proclamation of the candidates, will be resumed. The expenses foreseen for this week, valued at approximately ten million euros, will also have to be made. These include sending the parties an advance for 30% of their campaign subsidies. "This puts a strain on the whole mechanism for holding the elections," admitted the minister.

However, if the elections are held on 14 February because of a court decision, the Government has said that it will not change arrangements for the elections, even though they are not sufficient to guarantee voter safety, as the postponement decree itself admits. Minister Solé said that the department has already taken all the measures it could within the current regulatory framework and that, in any case, the law should be reformed before the elections to include other forms of voting. "We have stretched the existing legislation to the limit [...]. As a Government we have already taken all possible measures," said the head of the department.

Budó has spoken out in the same vein, warning of the "risk" to health if the High Court does not endorse the postponement. "The decision to postpone the elections has not been based on political criteria, but on health and epidemiological criteria," said Budó, stressing that the right to vote of infected people is not guaranteed, nor is the health of staff who will be exposed during the vote at polling stations. "The risk has not changed, we still have the same scenario", said Budó, maintaining the "need to postpone the elections".

The Government will convene a meeting with political parties represented in Parliament to address the decision of the High Court. It was in such a meeting that the executive decided to postpone the elections until May with the support of all parties except the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC).

New health measures?

Since, according to Solé, there is no possibility of taking additional measures to guarantee the electoral mechanism, he has pointed out that "measures could be taken from the point of view of the preservation of health". In any case, Budó has qualified the restrictions that the health authorities would take, not only to guarantee the right to vote, but also to reduce hospital tension and avoid further contagion.

Budó did not want to say whether the Generalitat would impose a 8p.m. curfew if the Spanish government were to authorise it, as some regions have requested. Budó has said that she had to analyse whether epidemiologically it delivers a decrease transmission or risk.

The Spanish government "complies" with the judicial decision

The Spanish government has also made a statement on the elections in Catalonia. After days of trying to avoid the debate on the postponement of the elections, this Tuesday the Spanish government clearly stressed that "of course" it accepts the precautionary suspension dictated by the Catalan High court.

Spanish Government spokesperson María Jesús Montero insisted that it was the "responsibility" of the courts to take a position on the issue, but also recalled that the Minister of Justice, Juan Carlos Campo, had already questioned the suspension. During the press conference following the Council of Ministers, Montero pointed out that the response of the High Court "is similar to the criticism" Campo made, despite the fact that Minister of Health and PSC candidate Salvador Illa did not want to comment on the situation at any time, reports Mariona Ferrer i Fornells.