Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Catalan National Assembly's Plan B

(originally published in VilaWeb on May 22, 2013

What is the Plan B and how does one exercise the "right to petition"

The idea is that Catalans ask the Parliament to declare independence via the right of petition.

The Catalan National Assembly [Assemblea Nacional Catalana (ANC)] has launched a campaign to have Catalans ask their Parliament to exhaust all possible ways for holding a referendum on independence and—in the event that such a referendum is not authorized, or if the State does not accept the result—to unilaterally declare Catalonia’s independence. The initiative is based on the right of petition that is recognized by Catalan, Spanish, and international law and that permits citizens to ask any administration to act on matters that affect their interests or the interests of the the society as a whole for which they have established laws.

According to the President of the ANC, Carme Forcadell, the campaign’s goal is for the civil society to stand by the government and the Parliament and to force them to commit to the process of self-determination.

At the same time this morning as the Catalan Parliament was beginning to debate the Law of Referendums, the Catalan National Assembly introduced and launched a new tool that it designed to “help” and contribute so that the referendum can be carried out. The tool is the “Sign a vote for independence” campaign [Signa un vot per la independència], through which they hope to encourage Catalans to exercise their right to petition the Parliament. The petition in question is none other than to urge the Catalan Parliament to exhaust all the possible methods of holding a referendum up until May 31, 2014. In addition, it urges Catalan elected representatives—in the event this effort fails, either because the Spanish government refuses to authorize a referendum or because it will not accept the results of one—to unilaterally declare Catalonia's independence.

This last petition is addressed not only to the members of the Catalan Parliament, but also to the members and Senators of the Spanish Congress, and to mayors and selectpeople of Catalan municipalities. According to Agustí Carles, a member of the judiciary committee of the ANC, it was set up in this manner because there is also the possibility that the State might suspend the Catalan autonomous government, and in this case, the Parliament would not have the relevant jurisdiction though the legal representatives of the Catalan people would continue to be such.

The collection of signatures began on this very Wednesday and it was Forcadell herself who inaugurated the system during the presentation. Anyone 16 and older can sign—in person only—whether they be Catalan, Spanish, or some other nationality. The role of the ANC is only to serve as the collector of the signatures and to deliver all the petitions on the same day to the Parliament. According to those in charge of the campaign, they have not yet chosen the date to present the signatures because the tool would only be used in the event that the Law of Referendums does not move forward, or if the Spanish government refuses to accept the results of the referendum.

Carles explained that the right to petition is recognized by Catalan, Spanish, and international law. In the Catalan case, the Parliament has to process the petition through the petition committee and then give a response within three months of the receipt of same.

Forcadell remarked that, with this campaign, the ANC's goal is for the civil society to participate in the process of self-determination. The objective, according to what she explained, is that Catalans give support to the Government and the Parliament “who are already doing their job”, she declared. In addition, the tool can also be used to force the executive and legislative branches to commit to the celebration of a referendum since it specifies a particular date.

The campaign will be financed with the donations of the signers themselves, who will pay a symbolic fee of 1 euro upon signing. With those funds, a more international aspect of the campaign will be financed. Called “From Catalonia to the World” the initiative's goal is to develop a list of arguments that can be delivered to influential people all over the world who will help with the process. The people in charge of the campaign have explained that their goal is to spread knowledge about Catalonia “and its will to be independent” throughout the world, to give information about the demands for self-determination, and to "denounce the state of siege under which the State has Catalonia.”

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