No, Spain is not a democracy

The EU Charter, which guarantees the rights of its citizens, is not worth the paper it’s written on

Suso De Toro
4 min

Spain is governed by a party which has been found guilty of systematic corruption. If society tolerates such behaviour, then it can accept all manner of things. However, this ought not to happen in a democratic country and it is proof that the system is corrupt.

Some years ago, this corrupt sociopolitical system initiated a fundamentally anti-democratic process, involving a petition "against the Catalans", and the Constitutional Court’s case against the Statute, both designed to attack the Catalan government at the time. This ideologically motivated strategy caused frustration and harm to Catalan society, in the first instance. Subsequently it was denied any alternative, leading us to where we are today. The Spanish state and its political parties had nothing to offer Catalonia, with the independence movement being the only alternative for society.

This democratic anomaly, the continuity of Rajoy’s administration —despite evidence of its corruption— with the support of the PSOE in maintaining its policies aimed at Catalonia, is only possible because it is in the interest of the State’s powers. It is evident in the direct actions of the economic powers that be —the boycott of the Catalan financial structure is a closely coordinated political operation— and through control of the Spanish media, its Madrid-based newspapers and TV stations, in particular. The striking similarity between the headlines in print and on the TV news can only be explained by them following a precise instruction: “Don’t cut the Catalans any slack".

This anti-democratic diktat is a response to the systematic distortion of language: "The separatist / pro-independence threat"; referring to the referendum as "illegal" even before the Constitutional Court had issued its verdict; the use of vocabulary employed by the police when referring to criminals, in expressions like “taking out the ringleaders of the referendum", "seizing the ballots papers" and so on. All via news reports and commentators which exclude anyone who might express the Catalan government’s position. The Spanish media is not democratic, it is a totalitarian machine that aims to turn Spanish public opinion against Catalonia. It is only right that it has been criticised by international institutions for its bias.

Social and political life is conducted via the media. The freedom of information, opinion and expression all depend on them to not be drowned out, as is happening at present. However, what ultimately guarantees democratic freedom is an independent legal system, and this does not exist in Spain, either. The democratic nature of the justice system has never been guaranteed.

With no clean break with the previous regime, public prosecutors and pro-Franco judges remained in their posts and were promoted, Madrid’s National Court took over from the Public Order Court. Furthermore, Rajoy profoundly changed the justice system. This is shown by the fact that both the Justice Minister and the public prosecutor have been formally reprimanded by the Spanish Parliament. This policy began with a reform that made the access to legal counsel more difficult and costly for the general public. It continued with the so-called Gag Law, which limits the exercise of the freedom of expression. Rajoy also did away with the concept of an independent judiciary by systematically placing those loyal to his party in every institution, from the Supreme Court to the Constitutional. It could be said that the new law passed by the Constitutional Court without prior consultation not only did away with the court’s moral authority, but it also had a similar, delayed effect on the Constitution itself.

The flagrantly partisan use of the judiciary by such an authoritarian and corrupt party goes a long way to explain the imprisonment of two Catalan activists who support democracy. It is telling that before the trial, the Minister of Justice Rafael Catalá met with the Public Prosecutor José Manuel Maza. The judge sent the accused to prison, but it was the prosecution, at the orders of the government, who asked for a prison sentence alongside none other than the head of the Catalan police who was in charge of the anti-terrorist operation this August. The jail sentences, the fines, attempts to ban democratic parties... are all the actions of a totalitarian government. When such policies, carried out by the institutions, are also countersigned by two political allies, and when the head of state, who was appointed by the Franco regime, supports such policies, we are talking about an undemocratic regime. It cannot be called fascist, but it is anti-democratic and with and tends towards totalitarianism.

The authoritarian regime estimates that Catalan public resistance stands at around fifty to a hundred thousand activists, while ignoring the existence of the millions of Catalans who are peacefully defending their sovereignty as citizens and as a nation. We are witnessing a clash between a government strategy and a social reality. The Madrid-based courts believe they are facing a few independence parties while blissfully unaware that what they are facing is a truly democratic movement unlike any other in Europe or the rest of the world. Its plan is a simple one: a refusal to negotiate, while humiliating and destroying the movement —which they call “separatism"-- and that Catalan society loses its nerve. Once it has been reduced to a few provinces, leaderless and under Madrid’s control, it will be recognised and receive additional funding in compensation.

How can such a thing possibly happen within the European Union? The explanation is that the EU, or rather the European Commission and the ECB, have redefined the European project. The European Charter of Fundamental Rights, which guarantees the rights of its citizens, isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. The EU takes it for granted that some states are democratic, while others are not. The Kingdom of Spain, for example, is on a par with certain countries of the former Soviet Union. Civil liberties within these states are of no concern and their supposed sovereignty only exists as long as they repay their debt. In other words, Merkel and Juncker let Spain do whatever it likes with the Catalans, so long as it tries to balance its budget.