Article published by Diari Ara English, 8th March 2017
by NÚRIA ORRIOLS / MIREIA ESTEVE
The Board of the Catalan parliament has accepted for consideration the bill on reforms to parliamentary rules as tabled by the ruling Junts pel Sí coalition (JxSí). The changes would allow parliament to speed up the passing of a law of legal transitoriness, or disconnection. After a two hour meeting in which the Board of Spokespeople —formed of representatives from every party in the Parliament— voiced their views, demands to reconsider from three other parties were rejected. Those parties –the PSC, Ciudadanos (Cs) and the PP – oppose the reform bill into process.
Another meeting of the Spokesperson Board will now be needed to create a working commission within the Rules Committee, headed by Carme Forcadell, to start to process the change. JxSí wants parties to be able to pass bills in a single reading, that is, after a single debate in the plenary assembly, as the government can do now with prospective laws. This would require the agreement of the Parliament’s Board, where JxSí currently holds a majority. Previously, passing laws in a single reading was only possible for parties by consensus.
The Board’s decision, both in terms of accepting into consideration the reform initiative and in rejecting the counter requests, was taken with four votes in favour from the JxSí members, and three against from CSQP, PSC and Ciutadans. Sources for the Board’s majority argued that JxSí’s bill meets the “formal requirements” as stated by the parliament’s rules and, as such, there is no reason why it cannot be accepted for full consideration. They state that the other parties will be able to give their opinions on the reform’s objectives within the framework of the working committee. The opposition, however, has already warned that they will fight to prevent even the creation of such a committee.
For their part, the opposition parties have slammed JxSí’s intentions and accused them of breaking the rules and restricting parliamentary debate in the name of the independence process. CSQP sources have taken aim at JxSí for wanting to “cut back” the rights of other parties and have made it clear that they will oppose the rule change.
PSC announces they won’t take part in the working committee
PSC, for their part, have also attacked JxSí for wanting to damage parliamentary debate and to do things “badly”. “It’s a shoddy job”, claimed the party’s spokesperson, Eva Granados, in a press conference in Parliament, suggesting that the “Love Democracy” separatists are now trying to “avoid” debate. “Love Democracy” is an allusion to the slogan used during the protest on 6 February this year in support of former president Mas and two of his colleagues, standing trial for their roles in the unofficial 2014 independence referendum.
Granados announced that, for this reason, the PSC will not take part in the working commission. They hope this will cause it to fail and mean that the rule cannot be changed.
The commission is expected to be set up this week. If their plan doesn’t work, Granados did not want to say whether PSC would request an injunction from the Constitutional Court, as they did in the case of the working committees for the “disconnection” laws, where the high court ruled in their favour.
Nonetheless, PSC has shown that they will use all the tools they have at their disposal to stop this reform, which they believe limits the rights of minority parties.
PP denounces JxSí’s “antidemocratic” course
PP has again raised the option of requesting an injunction from the Constitutional Court to avoid the formation of the cross-party working committee needed to consider the rule reform which would allow the “express disconnection” to move forwards. The PP’s spokesperson in the Catalan parliament, Alejandro Fernández, explained that they will talk with fellow opposition parties to evaluate the possibility of demanding an injunction.
For Fernández, JxSí is following an “antidemocratic” course to achieve its objectives. He warned that the parliament is split in two: “a democratic opposition and an antidemocratic government” which infringes “members’ rights”. Pushing ahead with the separatist road map and “cheating” to hold referendum puts “Catalonia’s home rule at risk”, according to the PP spokesperson, and he claimed that the Catalan government respects neither Spanish nor Catalan legislation.
C’s accuses JxSí of “cheating”
C’s has also accused JxSí of “cheating” when modifying parliamentary rules to be able to “declare independence”. According to C’s deputy spokesperson, Fernando de Páramo, JxSí wants to change the rules for their own ends, rather than to ensure “greater participation”. He also insisted that JxSí clarify, at the moment of truth, if “the CUP [who had the casting vote in installing JxSí in government] will obey [them] in disobeying democracy”.
As the PP explained, all the opposition groups will meet to consider the possibility of an injunction by the Constitutional Court. C’s said that they still haven’t decided either way, but have agreed to discuss it with the other parties.
JxSí considers it “legal, legitimate and convenient”
JxSí has defended their proposal as a way of making the rules “more agile and democratic”, and that it will make the rights of all parliamentary parties the same as the Government’s. Their spokesperson, Roger Torrent, argued for the “legality, legitimacy and convenience” of tabling the modification. “The working committee will start from scratch, with no draft text”, he explained, entreating the opposition parties to take part and make their own proposals in the committee.
With respect to the criticisms that the proposed reform has incited, Torrent accused the opposition of not using the “same measuring stick” when evaluating the reform, as the Congress in Madrid and other regional parliaments in Spain allow laws to be passed on the initiative of parliamentary parties after a single reading.