The Superior Court of Justice of Catalonia (TSJC) has decided this Wednesday to keep in force the decree of the Generalitat that called the regional elections for next February 14 and that the Government left without effect a week ago. The Fifth Section of the contentious-administrative has advanced this noon the ruling on the precautionary measures requested by half a dozen plaintiffs against the text of the Executive. That decree of the Generalitat suspended the call for 14-F and called for the elections to be held on May 30 due to the health crisis derived from the coronavirus. The Catalan Government believes that the decision generates more “uncertainty” and “forces the Catalans to choose between the right to health and the right to vote”.
Last Tuesday, the same court had already suspended the postponement decree by accepting the measures – on that occasion, “extremely precautionary”, that is, without listening to the parties – and, therefore, had forced to reactivate the electoral machinery for the 14 -F. The new decision of the TSJC, once the allegations of the interested parties (including the Prosecutor’s Office and the Generalitat) have been heard, maintains that suspension and, consequently, leaves the February 14 call alive.
The court has assessed this morning the allegations presented by the Generalitat, which defends the need to postpone the elections due to the health emergency. Their technical reports show that the ICU occupancy peak would be three days before the vote and that it could not be guaranteed that some 200,000 quarantined or positive people could vote normally. The acting president, Pere Aragonès, has appeared at 2:00 p.m. to assess the decision, waiting to know the details of the interlocutory. “The TSJC maintains an uncertainty that fully affects the electoral campaign, an indispensable part of any electoral process,” the ERC leader also lamented. The two partners of the Government, Junts and Esquerra, believe that this is one more episode of what they consider “interference in the political and institutional life of Catalonia.”
The magistrates of the TSJC do not address these arguments and have already advanced their decision to “maintain the suspension” of the postponement decree signed on January 15 by the acting president Pere Aragonès. “Therefore, the date of 14-F” for the elections is kept as a precaution while the appeal is processed, according to the note released by the court’s press room. Electoral preparations for 14-F, therefore, must continue. And with the utmost speed, because the deadlines set by the electoral law are highly priced. The Generalitat already announced on Tuesday – after hearing the court’s first decision – that it would reactivate the electoral machinery and, among other things, it has asked the Electoral Board to extend the deadline for voting abroad.
The electoral postponement had been agreed by the Government and all the political parties with parliamentary representation, with the exception of the PSC. The Socialists insisted that they should be earlier. This Thursday, the latest CIS poll shows a technical tie between the PSC and ERC. The full resolution will be released this Friday and in it the magistrates will develop the arguments by which they have decided to admit the precautionary measures requested by six plaintiffs, among which there are private citizens and extra-parliamentary political parties.
The TSJC recalls that the decision can be appealed, but the appeal in no case suspends what is now decided by the judges. The court has also advanced that it will issue a ruling on the merits of the matter (if the postponement decree of the Government violates fundamental rights) shortly and, at the latest, before February 8. In other words, in the middle of the electoral campaign, which adds a new scenario of uncertainty to the process.
Ciudadanos has asked to abide by the judicial resolution but also defended that it is not possible to vote with the current epidemiological situation. Its candidate Carlos Carrizoza has insisted on the “suitability” of modifying the electoral calendar and has urged the Executive to issue a new decree that, in his opinion, does meet all the requirements.