October 16: Yesterday was the day of the democratic break

Spain’s regime change following General Franco’s death --known as the Transition-- was carried out following a motto coined by Torcuato Fernández Miranda (1): “from the old law, to the new law”. A shift from Franco’s laws to the new constitutional ones. Without a clean break.

The events of 15 October (2), however, are grounded on an entirely different logic. October 15 is a clean break like the one which some demanded after the death of the Spanish dictator. We are having a legitimate political debate on the future of Catalonia. It doesn’t matter whether you support or oppose Catalan independence.

While the Spanish government wants to turn this debate into a courtroom procedure, in Catalonia we approach it as a political matter. In other words, it is a debate that will be arbitrated and settled by means of political mechanisms: ballots, negotiation and compromise. Not in a court of law.

When Catalans and many elected officials rallied outside the courthouse on October 15, they weren’t protesting the Judiciary’s independence. Rather, they were denouncing that a matter which belongs in the political arena is instead being dragged through a court of law.

This is precisely what president Mas has stated: if he is to be held accountable for the non-binding vote of November 9, it ought to happen in the Catalan parliament rather than before a judge. So, for the first time, we are looking at a democratic break from the judicial logic in favour of the political logic. We shall see what the answer is.


(1) N.T. Torcuato Fernández Miranda was a Spanish lawyer and politician who gained prominence during Franco’s last years and in the Spanish transition to democracy.

(2) N.T. On October 15 Catalan president Artur Mas was formally questioned in Catalonia’s High Court about his role in the non-binding, mock referendum of November 9, 2014 with a view to pressing criminal charges against him and other member of his government. Thousands rallied in protest, including over 400 Catalan mayors.