Quim Torra.

Quim Torra.

31-08-2020- EFE

They never miss a trick. On Monday, the parliamentary spokesperson for Més in Majorca, Josep Ferrà, gave a press conference. The parties give these briefings on Mondays so as to let everyone know what they'll be saying during the parliamentary sessions on Tuesdays. Més are therefore no exception, but Josep went somewhat off the normal script on Monday. He was concerned about the Spanish government and the regional government in Madrid. The Sánchez administration, he suggested, should consider applying Article 155 of the Constitution and intervening directly in Madrid regional affairs.

Why was Josep concerning himself with a matter that doesn't have anything to do with an econationalist party in Majorca? On the face of it, the concern had to do with the impasse between the Spanish and Madrid governments regarding the pandemic. Salvador Illa, the health minister, and the Spanish government want the Partido Popular-run government of Madrid to take much tougher measures to deal with coronavirus in the region than it is. There has indeed been some threat of intervention, but it is doubtful that this would go so far as being an Article 155 intervention, something we learned about in Catalonia, when the Spanish government invoked it, suspended Catalonia's autonomy and took over direct rule.

Article 155 was a consequence of what took place three years to the day - the Catalan referendum. For Josep Ferrà and for Més, Majorcan blood brothers of the Catalan independence campaign, Article 155 was representative of the repression of democracy, yet there he was on Monday, advocating its application to the region of Madrid. Was he being hypocritical? No, he was making mischief in wanting the Sánchez socialist government to use a device against a region run by the PP, the very party which had imposed Article 155 in Catalonia. Moreover, he was reminding everyone that an anniversary was just three days away, while he would also have been fully aware that another Catalan political bomb was about to be dropped. It was.

On Monday, the Supreme Court upheld the eighteen-month disqualification from public office of Quim Torra, the president of Catalonia. In one of his final acts before the Supreme Court gave its ruling, Torra called for passengers arriving in Catalonia from Madrid by train or plane to be given temperature checks. This wasn't, one felt, just a health matter; it was political as well - Catalonia versus Madrid, forever Catalonia versus Madrid, and a court in Madrid was about to rubber-stamp Torra's disqualification.

On Tuesday morning, Més hung a yellow ribbon from the balcony of their parliamentary offices in Palma - the yellow ribbon that has become the symbol of protest, and the very one that was displayed outside the Palau de la Generalitat, the seat of the Catalan government, ahead of elections in May last year. The ribbon and a banner calling for freedom for the political prisoners were to incur the wrath of Spain's National Electoral Board, especially after the ribbon and banner had been denounced by what Miquel Ensenyat of Més in Majorca described on Tuesday as a "party of the extreme right".

Torra refused to remove the ribbon and the banner. When he appeared before the Catalonia High Court on the charge of violating neutrality during an election campaign, he readily admitted that he had disobeyed the electoral board. The Supreme Court decided that he had "stubbornly and obstinately" refused to accept the order of the board.

So we now have another Catalan crisis, magnificently well-timed to coincide with the third anniversary of 1-O. Torra has defined the Supreme Court's decision as a coup and has called for "democratic rupture". Independence and separatist parties should stand united in effecting this rupture as it is the only way to move ahead with secession. In Majorca, Més are naturally in agreement, not that anyone much in Catalonia (and certainly not in Madrid) will be paying any attention to them.

But the Torra disqualification is all grist to an independence-minded mill in Majorca, and it is, quite frankly, a disqualification that serves no purpose. Torra, at worst, acted stupidly or even childishly in not removing the ribbon and the banner. Yes there are rules about election neutrality, but can anyone truly argue that they made a difference at the elections?

Spain's institutions have again managed to fuel a situation rather than address fundamental issues and seek means of some form of resolution. Torra will appeal to the Constitutional Court for protection, and it would be a great irony were that court to grant it, given how the Constitution has been cited so often in dismissing Catalan claims. He will attain a martyrdom of a rather more minor dimension than the political prisoners, and all the while the Catalan question will not go away, appealing ever more to independence supporters and generating ever more enmity amongst those opposed to independence. Rupture? Oh yes.

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