The judicial mess of the elections
BarcelonaThe judicial mess around the parliamentary elections is getting bigger every day. Catalonia's High Court has decided this Thursday to maintain the elections on February 14 as a precautionary measure despite the Generalitat's plea against the suspension of the postponement decree. It is not yet a final decision, but the court surprisingly set February 8 as the deadline for finding in one direction or another. Moreover, as a matter of legal deadlines, Friday 29th would be the first day on which it could rule, already with the election campaign underway.
The scenario drawn up for the next few days is surreal. The Generalitat is obliged to reactivate all the processes to ensure that the elections are held on 14 February and the parties have to start the election campaign within a week without knowing whether there will finally be an election. The Minister of Health, Salvador Illa, is already preparing to resign before next Friday to fulfil his promise to leave office just as the campaign begins. The Catalan Socialist Party, therefore, may find that in the middle of the campaign the court agrees with the Government and gives the green light to the postponement of the elections until May 30. What would then happen with the "Illa effect" highlighted by the CIS poll this Thursday?
But beyond the effects for political parties, what is not acceptable is the deplorable spectacle that citizens are witnessing. How will the parties manage to encourage participation in spite of the fact that the health authorities have advised against holding the elections? How will the challenge of the election result by citizens who consider that their rights have been violated when they have been made to choose between health and the vote be avoided? The situation is so complex and unprecedented that not even the lawyers know how all this can end.
What is evident is that, beyond the fact that the health emergency advises postponing an event that has a potential risk for spreading contagion, there is a real danger that if the courts force elections to be held on February 14, an additional problem over their legitimacy may arise. What will happen if in a climate of uncontrolled pandemic, the participation drops below 50% or many poll stations cannot be constituted because their members do not show up? What happens if it is confirmed that there is a differential abstention between neighbourhoods because of covid? What happens if the participation drops, especially among those over 60?
Having said that, the Government has to work effectively to guarantee the vote for everyone even if the elections have to be held on February 14. However this music hall show ends, it is very important that the elections can be held with maximum normality and with maximum participation. Catalonia is at too important a crossroads for the next government to find itself with added noise about the legitimacy of the elections at a time when enormous challenges lie ahead.