22/01/2021

High Court's confirmation as a political player

2 min
El president de taula fa l'obertura d'una mesa electoral a la localitat biscaïna de Durango, amb totes les mesures de seguretat davant la pandèmia del coronavirus

BarcelonaCatalonia's High Court's ruling in which it justifies the decision to suspend the postponement of the elections as a precautionary measure contains political considerations that contaminate the rest of the legal arguments. The court states that "it has been assessed that there is a very intense public interest in the holding of the suspended elections, because if they are not held, a prolonged period of provisionality is opened that affects the normal functioning of the democratic institutions". How can this "very intense public interest" be measured? Who is the High Court to decide how long a "prolonged period of provisionality" is? One can agree or disagree with these arguments, but in any case they are subjective appreciations that have nothing to do with our legal framework, which, for example in the case of the Spanish government, does not set any time limit for an executive to operate on an interim basis.

Health arguments may seem more reasonable, when they accuse the Generalitat of wanting to postpone an election when it has not even limited non-essential movements, but we are up against the same problem again. Is it up to the judiciary to decide whether or not the restrictions imposed justify the postponement of elections? Will the judges be held responsible for a possible upsurge in contagion if it occurs?

The legal debate should be limited to seeing whether or not the law allows an election to be postponed due to a force majeure such as a pandemic. We understand that this case, as the ruling states, "raises very complex legal questions" in an unknown terrain caused by the pandemic. But precisely for this reason, because we are in a new scenario, we should be as flexible as possible when interpreting legal frameworks. This is what one of the members of the tribunal does, who has written a dissenting opinion in which he states that between the right to life and physical integrity and the right to political participation, the former should prevail. He adds that most parties have agreed to the postponement and that holding the elections on 14 February could lead to "a drop in voter participation, with the inherent possibility of attempts to delegitimise the election result.

It can be seen, therefore, that there has been a strong debate in the court but that the position in favour of the postponement is a minority one and, therefore, everything points to the fact that the elections will end up taking place on 14 February. In fact, the parties are already working on this hypothesis. In any case, we will not know until 8 February, six days before the date for the ballot and after more than half of the election campaign. Given this situation, citizens must be aware that these elections will be crucial for Catalonia's future and the government must make every effort to guarantee safety for voters and the members of polling stations. Despite the adverse health conditions, whatever the date, Catalonia needs a strong and renewed government, and also needs to send out a clear message about what direction it wants to take.

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