Interview with the chairwoman of the Catalan Parliament (Xerta, 1957), who is facing two judicial processes about the independence process and every time more tense parliamentary sessions.
How are you dealing with judiciary pressure?
Quite well. I see to my duties as chairperson of the Parliament. No threats or intimidations will make me move a millimetre from defending the MPs’ freedom of speech.
When do you think the ruling will come out?
I do not control the timings, but the two cases have accumulated and this plays against me. In my case they have gone faster than usual.
The Parliament is living rather tense sessions and you have been accused of partisanship.
I am most calm about it. One can not ask a Parliament chairperson to renounce her ideology rather than just being equanimous. I am thus, I will never favour one determinate group. My objective is that everything may be debated in the Parliament.
Even if the Constitutional court forbids it?
We cannot allow censorship to enter the Parliament, we would put into question the very grounds of democracy and separation of powers. We cannot turn the Bureau of the Parliament into a censoring organ, all initiatives must be accepted as long as they conform to the rules of order. We cannot decide what should or should not be discussed.
Do you understand then, that you are disobeying?
I am strictly following the Rules of order and my duties as a chairperson. We do what has to be done: allow all issues to be discussed. If independence can be discussed anywhere, why not in the Parliament?
But when the legal services are warning that proceeding with some ballots will constitute disobedience…
Legal services have not said that ballots could not take place. They know that the only sovereign organ is the plenary assembly. They did ask us to read a note so that the assembly would be conscious of what it was about to do. During the session, the Bureau’s job is to ensure an orderly debate, not to decide what can be submitted to question or not.
This is not the understanding of the Constitutional Court.
The Court wants the Bureau to act as a censoring organ, but we cannot enter into the contents of the discussions: even the same Constitutional Court says so. It follows that they are substituting a political dialogue that the Spanish Government hasn’t got. Why is a political problem being tried to be solved judicially?
The threat can also be for the Civil Servants of the Parliament and Government.
Only the Bureau is affected, not the staff.
Is the strategy of the Spanish Government to instill fear into politicians and civil servants?
Indeed, but they know it is not working. It has not worked in the Parliament.
Its General secretary resigned…
He did for strictly personal reasons and denied it was about the independence process. The legal services do their work
Isn’t it possible that behind the note to the Parliament to remind the position of the Constitutional Court there be the fear of them being labelled as accomplices?
No, they see to their duties and they must do so. Protecting civil servants and staff is our responsibility, of the politicians. They see to their duties as jurists and they do so very well.
You say that the Court attempts against parliamentary sovereignty. Do also the groups that ask for the rulings to be obeyed do so?
They defend their political positions, which is totally legitimate. Plenary assemblies are tense and it is normal, we are very different.
Were you expecting to play such a protagonist role?
I was expecting it to be complicated and difficult, but not that the Parliament would be under so much attention. Neither the place nor the situation were easy. But I am very calm. I have seen to my duty.
If you are condemned [to disqualification], will you come to the Parliament to do you work?
Let us not try to predict the future. We don’t know what will happen. However, I will not move a millimetre from the defence of Freedom of speech. My process is not juridical, it’s political.
When the disconnection laws are passed, will there be a double legal framework?
The law is a decision of the groups. The Bureau will act following the rules. However, the Government has already said that there will not be two legal frameworks.
How do you think the process will end?
It started in the polling offices and there it will end. There is a Government which is compromised with the referendum. And when they took the compromise they knew it would not be easy. It is very complicated, indeed. And there are difficulties. Yet, they are not impossible to solve. I am convinced that the ballots will be set up. Will we actually vote? We shall see what happens that day.
The Government says that popular mobilisation will be important.
We would not be here without popular mobilisation. it is of utmost importance.
Now more compromise is needed, it is not enough with a demonstration.
I do not hold any doubt about the citizens’ will. I remember that every 11th of September was said that people would not take to the streets, and year after year, they did. Citizens want to decide their future.
Is it possible that people may be tired five years after the beginning of the process?
This tiredness has never been felt. We are about to decide the future and this encourages people.
How far do you think the Spanish government is ready to go in order to stop the referendum?
I do think so, but do not ask me to be more concrete, I could not say more than this. But the government of the [Catalan] government and the citizenship is most strong.
Source: ARA, 9th of April 2017
Authors: David Miró and Maiol Roger