The Superior Court of Justice of Catalonia (TSJC) maintains that there is a “very intense public interest” in which the Catalan elections are held on February 14th. Delaying the elections to May 30, as the autonomous government intends, leads to “a prolonged period of provisionality” that “affects the normal functioning of democratic institutions.” That is one of the reasons that the court uses to keep the 14-F electoral call in force, still provisionally.
The court announced on Thursday that it was keeping the electoral appointment alive, but this Friday it has released the resolution on the precautionary measures in full. It is not the final judgment, in which the Fifth Section of the contentious-administrative will have to rule on whether the fundamental rights of the plaintiffs have been violated. But it contains allusions to the merits of the case that offer some clue as to what the final criterion of the magistrates may be. They have promised to have the sentence ready “at the latest, before February 8”, that is, it will probably be known in the middle of the electoral campaign.
The “main effect” of the resolution is that, provisionally, the date of the elections is kept for February 14, so all preparations must go ahead and at maximum speed. But that does not imply that the court “forces to vote irreversibly” on 14-F; they are not the judges, they recall in the text, who have “set that date.” “What is done by the court is to keep the elections held on the date on which the competent authority called them”, that is, the acting Catalan president, Pere Aragonès.
The magistrates have wanted to underline a legal provision: the Catalan Government could, at any moment, approve a new decree to set a new electoral date. This is one of the scenarios that the Executive contemplates, and that is also present in the conversations between citizens and extra-parliamentary political parties (such as the Democratic League or Left in Positive) that presented the demand. A new decree would alter the course of the judicial process.
Right to vote and health risk
The decree signed by the acting president “affects the fundamental right of active and passive suffrage.” And the judges recall that the suspension of elections “is not provided for in the state regulatory framework of the state of alarm.” This, in fact, “expressly admits the holding of elections” during its term.
The Generalitat decided to delay the elections scheduled for 14-F due to the advance of the coronavirus in Catalonia and the health emergency. In the allegations presented before the TSJC to respond to the plaintiffs, he insists on this idea of not putting the public health of citizens at risk. The judges also knock down those arguments, however. They consider that “current health measures do not limit travel for non-essential activities.” And they add that the administrations have implemented “preventive measures” in health and electoral matters.
The judges warn that, despite what has been said, the decision is not final. Nothing prevents “substantial changes between now and February 14”, both in the rules that regulate the state of alarm and in the health field due to a “negative evolution of the pandemic”. These changes could “justify another decision by the competent authorities” as long as it is “in accordance with the law”.