Misc 18/01/2021

High Court has 24 hours to decide on postponement of elections

Several challenges have made their way to the court, which will have to decide on interim measures

Anna Mascaró / Quim Bertomeu
3 min
Un home votant amb mascareta en un dels col·legis electorals de Burela (Lugo).

BarcelonaThe Catalan High Court will have the last say on the postponement of the elections approved by the government with the support of most parliamentary parties. The court received several appeals against the suspension of the 14 February elections, one of which, put forward by an individual, demands extraordinary interim measures, meaning a provisional decision must be reached within 24 hours until a final ruling is issued.

Lliga Democràtica, which is not standing in the elections after failing in its negotiations to with the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), has become the first party to announce that it is appealing against the decree. Other organisations, such as Izquierda En Positivo, a "non-nationalist leftwing" party with no MPs which was running in the elections, has also announced its intention to appeal the postponement of the elections. So have the unionist association Impulso Ciudadano and Federalistes d'Esquerras, an organisation close to the PSC. The PSC itself and Vox have not announced an appeal although they have stated they are studying the electoral suspension with their lawyers.

PSC secretary, Eva Granados, has denied using proxy organisations to launch the appeals. "The president of Federalistes d'Esquerres is a member of ICV [a party to the Socialists' left], and the Lliga Democràtica is a party that sough to join forces with PSC but in the end didn't" she explained. The same line was held by Federalistes d'Esquerres's leader, Joan Botella, although he did say that "PSC and other parties prefer not to take risks and for someone else to appeal the decision". Nevertheless, Granados has announced that the Socialists are suspending their campaigning and has asked other parties to do the same. "We will not send out any kind of electoral material nor carry out any rallies. Our campaign team will not meet, either" she explained.

Lliga Democràtica's appeal, to which the ARA has had access, the party led by Astrid Barrio defends that Article 23 of the Constitution, on the right to electoral participation, has been violated, and therefore presents the appeal. As soon as the Supreme Court of Justice admits the case, the party will have eight days to make the allegations, according to sources in the party's legal service.

In a statement, the party considers it "extremely serious" to leave the call for elections, scheduled for 14 February, without effect, and considers that the holding of the elections "is being accommodated to party interests, using the pandemic as an excuse. The party is especially critical of the fact that the new call for elections has been postponed"sine die and [remains] in the hands of the Government", which "is entitled to call them or not in the future", in a way that gives rise to what it considers to be "absolute defenselessness and legal insecurity" as it does not clarify "in what circumstances" the elections may be held. PDECat, who accepted the postponement of the elections, also believe party interests lie behind the choice of 30 May as the new date. "These are arbitrary criteria" said PDECat candidate Àngels Chacón.

JxCat spokeswoman Elsa Artadi, however, defended the decision as an "inevitable" consequence of the current situation. Nevertheless, she has called for measures to be taken so the same does not happen again on May 30 and the elections can go ahead regardless of the pandemic: being allowed to vote on various days, longer opening hours for poll station and encouraging people to vote by mail. These measures, however, would have to get the approval of the Spanish parliament.

In recent days, the Catalan Government has called on parties' "responsibility" to prevent them from putting the holding of the elections in the hands of the courts. This morning, the vice-president Pere Aragonès has asked that nobody challenges the postponement: "In the Galician and Basque case nobody dared to question [the postponement] and put it into question". He said it in a digital meeting with Europa Press, where he argued that postponing the election date is the best decision because the next weeks will be very difficult "from the health point of view". For Aragonés, postponing the elections will allow the electoral campaign not to focus exclusively on "whether the elections should be held or not".

The Spanish government now says it "has nothing to say" about the postponement

The Spanish Minister of Territorial Policy, Carolina Darias, has assured this Monday that her executive has nothing to say about the decision of the Catalan parties and the Government of the Generalitat to postpone the elections until May 30. Despite last week's declarations by her fellow cabinet members - such as the Minister of Justice, Juan Carlos Campo, who stated that the postponement meant "suspending democracy" - Darias has pointed out to Onda Cero that the Spanish government "has nothing to say" because "it is a matter for the Catalan parties, Catalan society and the Government to decide".