The ballot box on trial
ARTUR MAS / JOANA ORTEGA / IRENE RIGAU 06/02/2017 22:54
2,344,828 people stood before a ballot box and cast their vote. It was 9 November 2014. 41,000 volunteers were involved in the 9-N participatory process, which was to become the largest democratic mobilization ever seen in contemporary Catalonia. In sharp contrast to this civic display of democratic affirmation, this week we will stand trial for having made it possible, loyal to our electoral mandate and the Catalan Parliament. State institutions have initiated criminal proceedings as punishment for those who, in their view, dared to defy them. The Spanish state is not known for trying to seduce its opponents. It rejects dialogue, bringing its judicial arms to bear rather than participating in political negotiation and it engages in a dirty war whenever it suits them.
With this article, which will be published today in the media, we wish to emphatically express a present and future reality. If we are ultimately found guilty, it will not destroy our desire to serve our country. Every day, wherever we are, we reaffirm the values must underlie a European democracy of the twenty-first century. Over the last decade, we have seen the worst examples of an immobile state and political parties backed by the Spanish government: a Constitutional Court ruling against the Statute and a continuous, gradual centralization that leads us to residualisation as a nation. The Catalan reply to this situation has been five consecutive multitudinous and splendidly civic demonstrations. And the holding of three votes in order to legitimize the Catalan government’s decisions: Parliamentary elections in 2012 with a majority of over two-thirds in favour of the right to decide, the consultation process of 9-N and the plebiscitary elections of 2015, which resulted in an absolute majority of MPs in favour of the Catalan state.
There are many examples of great historical significance in which the law has been amended or adapted to meet the aspirations of the people. Demands based on social, racial, gender and national factors, among others. History is full of them, since this is how democratic societies evolve. Various public opinion polls concur in that almost 80% of Catalans wish to participate in an independence referendum, which they see as the best tool for deciding how the Catalonia that our children, grandchildren will inherit ought to be.
The UK agreed to let Scotland hold a referendum to decide whether the Scottish people wished to live in an independent Scotland. The same thing happened with Quebec and Canada -twice in fact-, in 1980 and in 1995. If Spain were to take a long look at itself, it would see that its political and judicial institutions are diametrically opposed to those found in Westminster and Ottawa. There is no going back, Catalonia will be what its people wish it to be politically. We want a more prosperous and wealthy Catalonia, fairer and more supportive, more cultured and civic. And a superior democratic quality: with a clear separation between the executive, legislative and judicial powers. We, the three signatories, believe it is worth remembering that the nine prosecutors from the High Court of Justice of Catalonia issued a unanimous report in which they declared that there was no evidence of a crime having been committed in the organization and holding of 9-N. To everyone’s surprise, the State Attorney General pulled rank and filed a complaint against us.
The Spanish state and the PP government wish to erase the image of long queues, of families consisting of several generations waiting in an orderly fashion to exercise their democratic right to vote. You will not find many examples anywhere in the world, or popular movements, with such a degree of commitment, involvement and constructive spirit as can be found in Catalonia. In taking us to court over 9-N, they want to intimidate President Puigdemont and the Catalan government. But what they are really doing is taking to court every individual behind those 2,344,828 votes. This Monday 6 February 2017 all of those who voted on 9-N will stand trial. Those who voted ‘yes’, ‘yes-no’ and ‘no’. Everyone. In his first inaugural address, the 32nd President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, declared: "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself". 9-N was the first great step taken by Catalonia to prove that we have no fear.
We are hoping to be acquitted because we firmly believe that we are innocent of having committed a crime. Nevertheless, whatever the outcome, we will continue to serve our country. Catalonia can aspire to freedom out of fraternity, without violence and with a smile on its face. As it says in our Cant de la senyera [Song of the Senyera (flag)] "light in our eyes and strength in our arms". Light in our eyes to glimpse the great country that we can build, if we have the tools that we currently lack. And strength in our arms, like the strength and perseverance to achieve our goals. Today, 6 February, we are showing that we face this decisive year with a social majority, political unity and a social mobilization whenever it is needed.