Catalonia’s High Court handed down a guilty sentence yesterday against those responsible for 9-N which, despite its legal argument, is flawed in its origins and will provoke undeniable political effects. This is the moment to remember that the Catalan Board of Prosecutors decided, in a meeting held on November 17, 2014, that there was no crime committed in holding the 9-N consultation. That was when the then-Prosecutor General of Spain, Eduardo Torres-Dulce, spurred on by the PP government, ordered charges to be filed. He did so and then, of course, resigned from his position. Thus, the entire case has been muddied by its political motivation.
To reduce the legal process over 9-N to a technical debate over whether or not the instruction from the TC was ignored cannot hide the fundamental debate: Spanish democracy will not allow a legitimate government to consult its own citizens on the subject of their political future. Not in the form of a referendum, of course, nor even via an innocuous participatory process. The Spanish government is allergic to ballots and participation by the people. This has been clearly demonstrated.
The most important political effect of the verdict, however, is not this. By leaving any no gaps in the current legal framework, sentencing Mas, Ortega, and Rigau has ended any hope of a negotiated solution to the demand for a referendum.
The PP government should have thought better before letting itself get carried away by the desire to punish the government leaders of 9-N. They acted, driven by a feeling of humiliation at the image of millions of Catalans participating, civically and peacefully, in a vote that they had said repeatedly would not happen. Instead of accepting defeat, they concocted vengeance by pressing legal charges.
While they are breathing easier today because Artur Mas has been found guilty, do they really believe that the two-plus million Catalans who participated in the vote will cease wanting to decide their future at the polls? Do they really think that banning political leaders from holding office will make the pro-independence process vanish into thin air, as if by magic? Political challenges can only be resolved through politics. In the end, as President Carles Puigdemont said, it will be the people, with their vote, who will put things right.