Antoni Bayona Rocamora – March 26, 2021
Parliament of Catalonia’s Lawyer and former senior lawyer. Professor of Administrative Law at Pompeu Fabra University
One of the main obstacles in the political negotiation to form a Government in Catalonia is the role that the Council for the Republic has to develop in the new political stage that is now opening. It is still curious that the problem focuses on something that does not respond to any institutional reality, without its private legal form being clear. Out of the scant information that appears on its corporate website, the most concrete that exists is a founding regulation that defines the Consell as an “institution” that aims to promote political and social activities to implement and materialize an independent State in Catalonia in the form of Republic. Its composition is quite indefinite and open, although the figure of the former president of the Generalitat Carles Puigdemont stands out prominently.
It is still curious how an entity of this nature can be a main protagonist of an investiture and the formation of a Government in Catalonia. But everything has an answer and you don’t have to be very perceptive to realize that the Consell de la República seems to be conceived, beyond its general activities to promote independence, as a platform for the projection and presence of the former president of the Generalitat in the future governance of Catalonia. It must be remembered that, for a sector of the independence movement, especially the one that agglutinates around Junts per Catalunya, Carles Puigdemont is still the “legitimate” president, unduly stripped of his position due to the application in October 2017 of article 155 of the Constitution. And this way of seeing things can now lead to a solution as peculiar as trying to establish a kind of two-headed governance: the coexistence of a “legitimist” presidency with an “effective” one embodied by the candidate invested as president of the Generalitat by the Parliament.
It is difficult for a scenario like the one described to be understood by anyone who knows how a liberal democracy works. I suppose the first thing you might think is that it is only about achieving a symbolic effect, without major significance. However, I do not believe that this is the intention and there are reasons to think that behind the Consell de la República there is something more important, such as the creation of an instrument designed to intervene in the same government activity.
Of course, the actions of any government are never protected from external influences. These occur very frequently and have various origins. Without going any further, the influence of the same political parties that have managed to configure the majority of the government. However, what can happen with the Council of the Republic runs the risk of becoming a staging of an apparently “institutionalized” power, which would be added to the institutions of self-government themselves. This situation may become even more complicated if this platform also intends to integrate the pro-independence entities, transcending their natural space of action as civic entities.
It is not good that in a democracy there are confusion or uncertainties about who really exercises power. Public institutions are those that we know and each one of them has its natural playing space related to the functions that constitutionally and statutorily correspond to them and whose exercise they must account for according to established rules. This is democracy; it is ultimately based on parliamentary control over the government. Parliament represents citizens and, in a parliamentary regime like ours, it is essential that the relationship of political trust between Parliament and the Government always responds to the interaction between both subjects. This scheme should not include any other subject with an institutional claim or appearance that can make the public understand that it also acts as a Government. It would not only be a fraud to the basic rules of the political and social system, but also to the democratic model itself as we understand it in a Western context.
In democracy there can be no double governments, no double legitimacies. The Parliament represents the people of Catalonia and it is the one who configures the Government with the act of investiture. From that moment on, a fiduciary relationship is established between the two in which there are no guests who will not be able to face the Parliament and to which citizens will not be able to demand responsibilities either. Institutions are what they are and politicians should not ignore that reality because it suits their interests. It is not only a democratic requirement, but also transparency in the exercise of power.
The basic rules of operation of democracies have long existed and one should be very careful to experiment with something that is more delicate than many believe. Improving these rules is possible and may be necessary, but reinventing them is not so easy because you run the risk of disfiguring the model. In this area, appearances are also very important, because citizens should not be subjected to confusion or uncertainty regarding who decides for them.