Xavier Arbós – April 8, 2021
Professor of Constitutional Law (UB). Editorial committee of EL PERIÓDICO
Antoni Comín, Carles Puigdemont and Clara Ponsatí. /
EFE / STEPHANIE LECOCQ
I admire the people at ERC who are negotiating the investiture of Pere Aragonès. They must have nerves of steel, and a cold blood comparable to that of explosive deactivators, neurosurgeons and test pilots. If not, I don’t know how they can integrate the role of the Council for the Republic into their discussions. People with less mettle would have risen from the table, demanding that future meetings be raised with issues that would have acceptable legitimacy for the majority of Catalan society. And it is that there are sectors of the ‘procés’, which, after juggling with the interpretation of legality, now seek to accept the legitimacy of a private institution, such as the Consell per la República, as if it could be compared with that derived from the elections.
To better analyze the limits of the legitimacy of the Consell per la República, let us turn to a classic of the social sciences such as Max Weber. In his monumental ‘Economy and Society’ he presents three forms of legitimacy on which political domination can rest. The first, which he describes as “rational”, is based on the belief that those who hold power have obtained it in accordance with current legislation. It is the legitimacy of power in a state of law. The second is based on tradition, which has long pointed out those who are destined to exercise power; the example would be that of absolute monarchies. Finally, the third form of legitimacy is what Weber calls “charismatic”: there the legitimacy of the exercise of power derives from the special qualities of a specific person, who for them deserves to exercise authority. If we enter the website of the Consell per la República to find out what it is, we will have to go to a video to find an answer. There we are told (thirty seconds later) that “the starting point and source of legitimacy of the Consell is the citizen registry” open to all people who want to register in it and that, at the time of writing these lines, they add up to 92,958. What kind of legitimacy could they invoke, if they wanted to exercise any power? Not the one that derives from the votes obtained in elections to which the Consell for the Republic did not appear, and neither is it a legitimacy that Weber would call “rational.” There is no rule that provides for the government in Catalonia to be attributed to anyone other than the person who is elected by the electoral body and invested by its representatives. On the other hand, the existence of the Consell begins in 2018, with which it seems that there is no consolidated tradition of which that body can claim heir. There would remain the charismatic legitimacy, which some will attribute to Carles Puigdemont, president of the Consell, for being, from his point of view, the legitimate president of the Generalitat after being unjustly dismissed by the application of article 155 of the Constitution.
With all the respect they deserve, I think those who think this way are wrong. In the political culture of democracies, acceptable government is that which derives from the application of constitutional, statutory and electoral norms. That is rational legitimacy. Traditional legitimacy went down in history with the French Revolution. As for charismatic legitimacy, after some aberrant signs in the 20th century, it cannot be considered in our time as superior to rational legitimacy. That is why a government program conditioned by the external influence of the Consell per la República would seem inadmissible to me. The more so since, to the extent that no significant representation is perceived in it. As it is in the “founding phase”, no elections have been held for its assembly of representatives. Its founding assembly is made up of the deputies who signed the investiture agreement of the last legislature, with the exception of ERC, which withdrew because it was considered partisan. It responds, therefore and partially, to a sector of the independence movement of the last legislature. It does not correspond to the elections of February 14, and is still in a “foundational” phase of little representation. Do not give in to their pressures, even if they invoke lofty ideals.