The historical interference of Constitutional Court (TC) in the Senate – by preventing the vote on the law on its renewal – is unprecedented in the Spanish Courts, but in no case is it an unprecedented event in state democracy. You only need to take a look at the newspaper archive of recent years to find constant interference from the guarantee court on the Parliament of Catalonia, in a stage marked by the process. Suspension of plenary sessions, prohibition of debates, preventing voting or annulling resolutions or laws are some of the actions that the TC has carried out since 2015 in Catalonia.
The peak moment of these interferences occurred between 2017 and 2018, coinciding with the most intense stage of the process, in which the referendum of October 1 was held, the symbolic declaration of independence of Catalonia was approved, autonomy was suspended through the application of article 155 and the members of the Government who declined to leave the State were sent to prison . The actions of the TC almost always responded to government resources -then in the hands of the PP-, which often had the support of the PSOE.
Let’s go in order. In the plenary session of September 6 and 7, 2017, the Catalan chamber approved the 1-O referendum law and the legal transitoriness law -also known as the disconnection law-. At the behest of the Government – chaired by Mariano Rajoy – the TC took 24 hours to suspend the regulations that allowed the pro-independence consultation, while the transitory law suffered the same fate on September 12. These suspensions would facilitate the subsequent admission to prison and the conviction for sedition of the then president of Parliament, Carme Forcadell. Previously, in December 2016 the Constitutional Court had already suspended the preparatory papers to draft a law on the Catalan Treasury, a law for Social Security and the law on transitoriness.
Despite the warnings of the same TC already police repression, on October 1 of that year more than two million Catalans decided to vote for independence. Four days later, at the request of the PSC, the Constitutional Court decided to suspend the plenary session of the Parliament called for the 9th, in which the then president, Carlos Puigdemont, had to assess “the results of October 1 and its effects.” Forcadell opted for dodge the title of the plenary session and, finally, it could be held on the 10th, on a day remembered because Puigdemont suspended the declaration of independence. Finally, it would be approved on the 27th and although it would not go beyond mere symbolism, it would cause the approval in the Cortes of the execution of 155 and the subsequent arrest -or exile- of the members of the Government.
Puigdemont’s telematic non-investment
Still under the application of 155, Catalonia held elections to Parliament on December 21, 2017, in which Ciudadanos prevailed, but which allowed the independence movement to retain an absolute majority in the chamber. After the elections, at the end of January 2018, an attempt was made to invest Puigdemont as president, but the TC prevented it. Following a government appeal, the guarantee court ruled that the leader of Junts only could be elected to the position in personsomething impossible at that time, because he was in Belgian exile and knew that if he returned to Catalonia he would be immediately arrested.
Who would end up leading the Government would be Torra
Therefore, the TC prevented a telematic investiture of Puigdemont from being voted on and two days later, the president of Parliament, Roger Torrent, chose to suspend the plenary session. Months later, in May, the Constitutional Court knocked down the reform of the Law of the Presidency, which had precisely been made to allow a remote investiture. Finally, who would end up leading the Government would be an unexpected candidate: Quim Torra.
Before reaching the most intense months of contemporary Catalan politics, the guarantee court had already played its role in the process. On November 9, 2015, the plenary session of Parliament approved – with the votes of Junts pel Sí, which was the coalition of the old CDC and ERC, and the CUP– the resolution that wanted to mark the beginning of the process of “democratic disconnection” of Catalonia from the State. Citizens, PSC and PP had jointly filed an appeal before the TC to prevent the plenary session, but on that occasion the court rejected it. Later, it did declare the resolution approved by the pro-independence groups unconstitutional.
I veto a commission on the monarchy
The interferences of the court of guarantees on the actions of the Catalan legislature have not been limited to issues related to the process. In October 2019, the TC considered unconstitutional the creation in Parliament of a commission of inquiry into the Spanish monarchy, which sought to delve into its corruption scandals. The commission, which had been approved with the votes of Junts, ERC, En Comú Podem and the CUP, did not get started and the argument was that investigating the monarchy exceeded the powers of the autonomous chamber. In July he had already annulled the disapproval of the king, Felipe VI, approved by Parliament.
The TSJC decided to acquit Torrent
Just a few weeks later, in November of that year, the Constitutional Court warned the Parliamentary Board not to process two motions -one on the self-determination of Catalonia and the other on the monarchy-, but the governing body of the Chamber opted to Allow discussion and approval. The decision had consequences, because the pro-independence members of that Board, chaired by the now Minister Roger Torrent (ERC), were brought to trial for alleged “serious disobedience” to the Constitutional Court, which could lead to a sentence of disqualification. The Superior Court of Justice of Catalonia (TSJC), finally, decided only a month ago to acquit Torrent and the rest of the accused – Josep Costa, Eusebi Campdepadrós and Adriana Delgado – arguing that the instructions of the TC had not been clear enough.
At the same time, the Constitutional has also totally or partially suspended several laws approved in recent years by Parliament, such as successive regulations to guarantee the right to housing. And if we go almost to political prehistory, in a time prior to the process but that explains its outbreak, in June 2010 cut the Statute of Cataloniawhich in 2005 had been approved by Parliament, which had later been validated by the Spanish Cortes -after cutting or brushing off the text, in Alfonso Guerra’s terminology- and which, finally, had endorsed Catalan citizenship in a referendum.