The Parliament of Catalonia reaches 90 years of life and will celebrate it this Tuesday afternoon with a commemorative plenary session. The nine decades of the legislative institution allow us to summarize contemporary Catalan politics, from the time of the Second Republic to the most intense moments of the process pro-independence, without forgetting the more than 40 years that the body was suppressed under the Franco dictatorship. The commemorative act will be attended by the former presidents of the Generalitat José Montilla, Artur Mas and, above all, Jordi Pujol, who will reappear after the stroke suffered in September and who will return to the camera for the first time since 2016.
Before detailing five dates that, precisely, allow us to take a journey through the history of the legislature and, in turn, through Catalan politics of the 20th and 21st centuries, we stop at the building, the Palace of Parliament. Work of the Flemish Joris Prosper Van Verboom, it was built in the 18th century as an arsenal for the military fortress of Ciudadella, built by order of Felipe V with the desire to control Barcelona after razing it in the War of Succession, which lived the last chapter in the city with its fall on September 11, 1714.
However, at the end of the 19th century the building underwent its first major reform to be transformed into the residence of the Spanish royal family for the Universal Exposition that Barcelona hosted in 1888. In 1900, it would become the headquarters of the Municipal Museum of Decorative and Archaeological Art of Barcelona, while in 1932 it would undergo new changes with the arrival of the Second Republic, becoming the seat of a Parliament of Catalonia that was taking its first steps. The dark times of the Franco dictatorship caused it to lose its legislative function and return to military uses, until in 1945 it was assigned to the Museum of Modern Art of Catalonia. The democratic restoration would make it finally become the seat of Parliament again, a task it has maintained ever since.
December 6, 1932
On December 6, 1932, the constitutive session of the Parliament of Catalonia was held. The country had recovered its own legislative body after the final approval, in September of that year, of the Statute of Autonomyknown as Núria Statute, since part of its content was written in this scenario of the Pyrenees. On November 20, the first -and only- elections to Parliament during the Second Republic would be held, with an uncontested victory for ERC. The party of Francesc Macià and Lluís Companys accumulated 56 deputies out of a total of 85, clearly surpassing the right of the Lliga Regionalista –Francesc Cambó’s formation– which would remain at 16. The other formations with representation in the chamber were the Socialist Union of Catalonia, with five deputies; the Partit Radical Autònom de les Comarques Tarragonines, with four; the Unió Catalanista (1), the Partit Republicà Federal (1), the Partit Català Republicà (1) and the Unió Democràtica de Catalunya (1).
Macià, as provisional president of the Generalitat -he would be sworn in on the 14th-, delivered the main speech of that session on December 6 (PDF). At the same time, Lluís Companys was elected president of an interim Board, which would be definitively ratified a week later, on the 13th. Apart from Companys, that first Board would have Joan Casanovas (ERC) as members, as first vice-president; Antoni Martínez (Lliga), as second vice-president; and Martí Rouret and Antoni Dot (ERC), Josep M. Casabò (Lliga) and Carles Gerhard (Unió Socialista), as secretaries. Catalan politics was experiencing an initiation moment, marked by illusion and hopebut that it would be convulsive and would last a few years.
January 1, 1934
It had been a little over a year since the Parliament of Catalonia had launched its activity and it was already undergoing a notable change: in an extraordinary plenary session, On January 1, 1934, Lluís Companys was elected President of the Generalitat. One week before, on December 25, Francesc Macià had died suddenly. Nine months later, Companys and the bulk of his government were arrested and imprisoned as a result of the proclamation, on October 6, of the Catalan State within the Spanish Federal Republic.
The political pendulum had moved and in the Spanish elections the extreme right of the YIELDwho governed the state and opted to repress Catalan self-government. Companys and the rest of the members of the Generalitat would be pardoned after the electoral victory of the Popular Front in February 1936. However, as is well known, only five months would pass before the military coup d’état that would lead to a civil war that would end in victory. fascist and the exile of a good part of the republican elite. Companys, who had gone into exile in France, was arrested by the Nazi Gestapo in August 1940. and transferred to the Francoist authorities, who would execute him on October 15 of that year in the Castell de Montjuïc.
The dictatorship would entail the suppression of Catalan self-government and, consequently, the closure of Parliament as a legislative body. The chamber would only survive the exile, and in a very precarious way, for the next four decades. Josep Irla, Antoni Rovira i Virgili, Manuel Serra i Moret and Francesc Farreras i Duran would succeed each other in the presidency of Parliament during the long period of exile.
April 10, 1980
The The last official meeting of the Parliament in its palace before the dictatorship was held on October 1, 1938 and legislative activity as such would not return until April 10, 1980. That day it hosted the constitutive session of the first Catalan legislature since the recovery of democracy, produced after the regional elections on March 20. The elections, in turn, had completed the process generated as a result of the approval of the Statute, in October 1979. The ERC leader Heribert Barrera was elected president of the Chamberone of the counterparts of the agreement that his formation had signed with the CiU in exchange for investing Jordi Pujol as president of the Generalitat.
CiU had prevailed in the elections, with 43 deputies, 10 more than the PSC, while the PSUC added 25, the UCD ––Adolfo Suárez’s party–– stayed at 18, Esquerra obtained 14 and the Socialist Party of Andalusia , two. Pujol would be invested by Parliament on April 24 of that 1980 and he would begin a long stage of 23 years at the head of the Generalitat, which would be marked by the political hegemony of the CiU –it would obtain absolute majorities in the elections of 1984, 1988 and 1992– and a certain distribution of power with the PSC, which would govern a large part of the great Catalan mayors’ offices. It was a time of construction and deployment of self-government, but also of the oasis, a climate of apparently calm and little institutional conflict that would end up facilitating the appearance of several corruption scandals.
February 24, 2005
“You have a problem, and that problem is called 3%.” These words pronounced by the then president of the Generalitat, Pasqual Maragall, in a plenary session of Parliament on February 24, 2005, shook the foundations of the Chamber as no one could remember. A monographic session was held on the collapse of the Carmel tunnel and with these terms Maragall accused CiU of corruption in a very explicit wayprofiting from commissions received in exchange for the award of public works.
In a way, that day the process of death of the oasis began, although the controversy between Maragall and the then head of the opposition and CiU leader, Artur Mas, was redirected. It was a moment of change, with a tripartite party that had been in power for a year and a half after Jordi Pujol’s presidency for more than two decades and a new Statute was being negotiated that aspired to expand and shield Catalan self-government.
In fact, the Parliament approved the Statute on September 30, 2005 and did so with the unanimous support of 120 deputies – those of the CiU, PSC, ERC and ICV-EUiA – and only the PP opposed it. The text would receive the approval of Congress half a year later, but it had already suffered a notable cut in the negotiations and would be validated by the Catalan population in a referendum on June 18, 2006. Four years later, the Constitutional Court would further laminate it in a historic sentence, which would mark a before and after in Catalan politics and would be essential in the growing support for independence and in the arrival of a new era marked by the conflict with the State: the process.
September 6 and 7, 2017
If there is a year that has marked recent Catalan politics, this is 2017, the culminating moment of the independence process and the conflict with the Spanish State. On September 6 and 7 the Chamber hosted the plenary session in which the Law on the referendum on self-determination of Catalonia and the Law on legal and foundational transitoriness of the Republic were debated and approved. The regulations, which would be struck down after a few days by the Constitutional Court, only had the support of the pro-independence groups, that is, Junts pel Sí -the coalition of ERC and CDC- and the CUP. The first law is the one that would serve to celebrate the referendum on October 1, in which more than two million people voted on a day without international recognition and marked by police repression against defenseless citizens.
The spiral of tension would go to more and on the 27th the independence majority would approve the Unilateral Declaration of Independence, which would never become official and, in fact, would not even be published in the Official Gazette of the Generalitat (DOGC). It did unleash a new phase of the political repression of the State, with the intervention of the Catalan institutions through the application of article 155 and the dismissal of the Government, whose members would go into exile -starting with the then president, Carles Puigdemont-, or would be imprisoned and, later, in 2019 convicted of sedition by the Supreme Court. Pardoned in June 2021, Little by little, Catalan politics has headed towards a stage postprocess, without the underlying political conflict with the State being, by far, definitively resolved. In this context, the camera reaches nine decades of life.