Democratic elections without equal conditions?

Jone Goirizelaia

Elections have been convened in Catalonia by Mariano Rajoy, President of Spain, in an overextension of his powers. They will include Catalan political prisoners, exiles and other candidates who, although on provisional release, are awaiting trials involving potentially harsh prison sentences.
In other words, elections are being held where not everyone is on an equal footing. The Basques have already had some experience with this; in fact, if there is any place in Europe that can help us understand the situation and the sensations of the citizens of Catalonia, it’s the Basque Country.
For years (starting with the illegalization of Herri Batasuna, Euskal Heritarrok in 2003), every time an election campaign started in our country, all the judicial and police machinery available would swoop in to prevent certain electoral groups or political parties from running. Police reports were prepared that involved nothing more than statements that were ranked as certified accounts, and these reports were used for court actions solved in record time. At these, there was no possibility to provide a proper defence and there was practically no time to provide proof, because the Court of Article 61 of the Supreme Court of Spain, and later on the Constitutional Court, would often decide who could run and who couldn’t just before midnight.
In Catalonia, no political parties have been declared illegal, and therefore, theoretically, everyone is starting out on an equal footing. However, that is not the case. There are candidates who are imprisoned and cannot campaign, and exiles who cannot campaign directly with the people of their country. The electoral programs have to be very carefully written, and the Spanish State controls the public media, which it already tried once to take over. The independence movement has to watch the election process as closely as it can to ensure that the results are authentic and to avoid manipulation. Furthermore, we have recently learned that the Magistrate of the Supreme Court is expanding his investigation to include even more candidates and party leaders.
Saying that, under these conditions, the elections on December 21 are democratic, that all parties are on an equal footing, is nothing but a joke. They are not.
Nevertheless, even though the Catalan independence movement has declared these elections illegitimate, it has decided to participate in them, just like the outlawed independentist left did in the Basque Country. This decision is laudable and we need to support it, because participating even under these conditions shows something important: that we aren’t afraid of the ballot boxes, we aren’t afraid of letting the people decide. Just the opposite: we want them to decide and for their decision to be respected. This hasn’t happened yet in Catalonia, because the Catalans’ right to decide has been supressed by the legal violence of the Spanish State.
On December 21st, we won’t just decide who will govern in Catalonia. Democracy itself is at stake, and what we need depends on the victory of the independentist movement and the failure of the parties in favour of article 155.

Jone Goirizelaia
Advocada. Exdiputada del Parlament basc. Ha format part del col·lectiu de dones Ahotsak en favor d’una solució dialogada i sense violència al conflicte basc.