The ongoing conflict in Catalonia brings up the question, whether the political system in place works properly or not. The conflict between Spain and Catalonia can be traced back to the 15th century.
Ever since leaders have not been able to find the solution for the problem. However, without understanding the separation of power between Catalonia and Spain it is impossible to decide whether the independence claim is justified or not. Catalonia’s referendum for independence was a violation of the Spanish law. In the constitution, Spain is described as the “the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation”. This is an unequivocal principle that justifies the decision of the Spanish court. Under Article 155 of the Spanish constitution, the Spanish judicial branch rejected Catalonia’s claim of independence since the Catalan government had no legal right to the independence movement.
In addition, no legal action including independence referendum is approved by the Spanish constitution. Therefore the Spanish constitution court clearly canceled all related decisions and acts of the Catalan parliament and government. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy dissolved the Catalan parliament and suspended the autonomy of the region until the upcoming election in 2017 December to restore order and legality in the region. The Spanish supreme court is going to decide whether to release Catalan cabinet members so that they can run in the election. The ministers are currently in custody accused of sedition rebellion, and misuse of public funds. In Conclusion, the independence movement and referendum is a violation of the Spanish constitution. The Catalan government had no legal right to the “official” referendum on the question of separation.
According to the announcement of the Catalan government results of the Catalan referendum (2017 November 9.) organized by the leader of Catalonian region Carles Puigdemont among others 90% of the population of Catalonia voted for independence. The result cannot be valued as the outcome of a democratic, legal referendum. The results are not valid therefore they do not represent the will of the population. The referendum (that in the first place was not legal) was disrupted by the Spanish police. Many votes had been confiscated by the police.
(They were acting on a judge’s orders to stop the referendum, which the Spanish government had declared illegal). The police closed 319 polling stations out of 2,300, (according to Catalan authorities). In addition to the missing votes, only 43 % of eligible voters attended the referendum. No source supports that the referendum and the counting of the votes were properly supervised. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy dissolved the Catalan parliament to return the region to “legality”. Also at least 13 Catalan officials have been arrested in the raids, which come as hundreds of mayors of towns in the region face state prosecutors to account for their support for the vote. Although the Spanish constitution was approved via democratic process from the perspective of Spain but not from the perspective of Catalans: The Catalan minority never had the chance to reject the Spanish constitution.
Up to a certain point, this fact justifies their claim according to which they are forced to be part of Spain since they were conquered centuries ago. However, since Catalonia has the benefits of being an autonomous region their claim for independence is not supported, moreover it is a serious violation of Spanish law. Catalonia has the widest possible authority and self-governance as a minority thus further/full independence claim is not justified. The constitution says: “it the constitution recognizes and guarantees the right to self-government of the nationalities and regions of which it is composed and the solidarity among them all.” All autonomous communities such as Catalonia are governed according to the constitution and their own laws known as Statutes of Autonomy. The Statute of Autonomy is the basic institutional law of the autonomous community or city, recognized by the Spanish constitution in Article 147.
Therefore Catalonia has full authority (governance and parliament) for all decisions in the separation of powers except for foreign/military and certain financial affairs. The Catalan regional government is responsible for schools, universities, health, social services, culture, urban and rural development, transportation, allocation of funds within Catalonia police affairs, civil court etc. This is the greatest level of independence of any minority in Europe or possibly in the World. The Catalan language is obligatory in all private and public schools in Catalonia despite the fact that roughly half of the population is not Catalan. This implies that the Catalan government has no respect for the Spanish and other minority groups in Catalonia. According to Francisco Caja, the president of a Catalan civic group (opposing a breakaway from Madrid) the Catalan government carried out the destruction of democracy by unacceptably using institutional instruments, beginning with schools, continuing with mediums of mass communication and ending with the regional police, which is a politicized police. He claims that non-nationalists are suffering from the suppression of basic rights.
Even though Catalonia is self-governed they are not responsible for foreign, military and certain financial affairs. Moreover, a remarkable part of the Catalan population sees the Spanish government as an oppressor, violent force. After Spain’s constitutional court declared the poll illegal, police officers were authorized to stop the referendum.
They prevented some people from voting, and seized ballot papers and boxes at polling stations while thousands celebrated the declaration of independence on the streets of Barcelona. Many claimed that the action of the police was “a degree of force never seen before in a European member state” and a violation of several human rights (to freedom of expression, assembly, association, and public participation). Almost 900 people were injured in clashes during an independence referendum when riot police fired rubber bullets as they smashed their way into centers and confiscated ballot boxes. “Regardless of the lawfulness of the referendum, the Spanish authorities have a responsibility to respect those rights that are essential to democratic societies,” stated the office of the High Commissioner. The action of the police in this particular case does not mean that Catalans are oppressed and treated in an undemocratic was by rest of Spain. Violence is not the right way to handle this situation however up to a certain level the act of the police was justified since the independence movement was a violation of law that had to be stopped.
Indeed, the Spanish Government accepts there was some violence – and has apologized for it. The Catalans have the ability to select their parliament and government through a democratic process without the interference of the Spanish government. Members of the 135-seat Catalan parliament are elected using proportional representation. The seats are divided into four districts: Barcelona (85), Tarragona (18), Girona (17) and Lleida (15).
A list must take at least 3% of the vote in each district in order to win seats, and 68 seats are needed for a majority. The elections happen in Catalonia without the intervention of the Spanish government. In the 2015 election the “Junts per Si” (“Together for Yes”) alliance won 62 seats. Combines with the far-left separatist CUP party (which won 10 seats) it was able to form a parliamentary majority.
The pro-independence camp’s leaders said they would now proceed towards the creation of an independent Catalan state. After the elections, the Spain’s central government in Madrid has pledged to challenge any unilateral moves towards independence in court. The election was fair and free. The Spanish government did not interfere however the Catalan party was warned about the illegality of the separation. Even though Catalonia has free and fair elections it has no democratic/ legal way to gain independence. In the elections of 27 September 2015, Junts pel Sí (Together for Yes) won the election in Catalonia and pledged to declare independence.
The voters knew the intention of the party all along and yet two years after the elections leaders of the party is accused of sedition, conspiracy and rebellion for delivering on an electoral programme that they have never concealed. The 2015 elections delivered a clear majority in favor of Catalan independence: 72 seats out of 135. Only 52 of the 135 seats went to candidates who explicitly rejected the idea of an independence referendum.
Yet the legitimate Catalan government has now been outlawed, the Catalan parliament dissolved and a political agenda that has nothing to do with the will of the majority has been imposed. The Catalan leading party was selected via a democratic process however the violation of the Spanish constitution is not justified even if the majority of the population supports the party which commits the violation. The autonomous community has the right to elect the regional leader however this does not indicate that the party has the right to organise referendum and declare independence. The separation of power between Catalonia and Spain is justified to a low extent.
Catalonia has the widest possible authority and self-governance as a minority thus further/full independence claim is not justified. The Catalan regional government is responsible for schools, universities, health, social services, culture, urban and rural development, transportation, allocation of funds within Catalonia police affairs, civil court etc. This is the greatest level of independence of any minority in Europe. The Catalan language and culture is well protected. Catalonia has free and fair election and in cases where the Spanish constitution is violated (such as the current referendum) the system is checked and the politician who caused the violation is fired implying that the system works properly. the Spanish government is subject to many checks and balances, the prime minister himself has recently had to testify both in court and in parliament for a case of massive corruption engulfing his party. Several proofs support that the separation of power is in place in Spain and the Catalan’s claim for independence is not justified.