What has been done to prepare for the elections?
BarcelonaThe Health Department has provided the parties represented in Parliament with a report forecasting the epidemiological situation in the run-up to the 14 February elections. The scenario is now clear: four days before this date, on February 10, covid-related occupation of hospital beds is expected to peak, so everything points to the fact that it could be decided to postpone the elections, as was done in the Basque and Galician elections. Even so, it is a complicated decision that will be taken at the end of the week, when there will be a clearer idea of the evolution of the incidence of the pandemic.
First of all, it must be said that if the elections are postponed it will be a failure both for the Government and for political parties, since they have had enough time to anticipate different solutions in order to guarantee the right to vote in the middle of the pandemic. The only thing that has been done is to widen the guarantees included in the current legislation as much as possible, but no decisive steps have been taken, either in Parliament or in Congress, to introduce changes in the electoral legislation that would allow the situation to be addressed in better conditions. Solutions such as allowing voting over two days, creating mandatory voting times or a specific form of postal voting for people who have caught the coronavirus cannot be implemented without a new Catalan law. Other changes, such as the introduction of mobile ballot boxes to collect votes house by house, would require changes to Spanish law. Moreover, in the case of the Basque Country and Galicia, infected people were prevented from voting, which is clearly a violation of their rights.
It is clear that if in February the situation is so critical that we must return to home confinement, it is common sense not to hold elections, but it does not seem that this should be the scenario. We may find ourselves in a situation where the schools are open and you can go to eat in a restaurant but you cannot go to vote; this would be an apparent contradiction, because suffrage is a fundamental right.
Understanding, then, the difficulty of the decision, we must also consider the effects that the postponement would have in the specific case of Catalonia, with a headless government since Quim Torra was barred from office and with two coalition partners who are at odds with each other and immersed in an electoralist dynamic at least since the former president considered the legislature exhausted, almost a year ago. The current government has limited powers (Pere Aragonès cannot make changes to the cabinet, for example) and, moreover, with the Parliament dissolved, laws cannot be approved nor parliamentary controls carried out that are relevant to the different departments.
This is not the best way to deal with the current situation of the pandemic not the rest of the challenges facing the country; that would require a strong and cohesive executive. However, the health authorities must have the last word, and the parties should not think about what is in their interest but what is in the interest of the whole population.