It takes a very special kind of chutzpah systematically to assault voters, and drag them from polling booths by their hair, and then say that a low turnout invalidates the vote. That is the shameless position being taken by the Europe wide political Establishment and its corporate media lackeys. This Guardian article illustrates a refinement to this already extreme act of intellectual dishonesty. It states voter turnout was 43%. That ignores the 770,000 votes which were cast but physically confiscated by the police so they could not be counted. They take voter turnout over 50%.
That is an incredibly high turnout, given that 900 voters were brutalized so badly they needed formal medical treatment. The prospect of being smashed in the face by a club would naturally deter a number of people from voting. The physical closure of polling stations obviously stopped others from voting. It is quite incredible that in these circumstances, over 50% of the electorate did succeed in casting a vote.
To enable this of course required some deviation from norms. People were allowed to vote at any polling station. The right wing German politician from the Bavarian Christian Democrats, Manfred Weber, leads the largest group in the European Parliament, which includes Rajoy’s Popular Party. He was therefore the first speaker in the EU Parliament debate on events in Catalonia, and managed not to mention police violence or human rights at all in his speech. He did however find time to mock the Catalan authorities for making these last minute changes in procedures to voting rules, which he said invalidated the result.
Weber is no stranger to using spurious “legalities” to support the jackbooted oppressor. His party has attempted to close down EU Commission programs to build schools and clinics for Palestinian children in the occupied West Bank, on the grounds they do not have planning permission from the Israeli authorities.
The obvious answer to the objection of Weber and others on the running of the referendum, is to have another one agreed by all and run in strict accordance with international standards. Yet strangely, despite their complaints about the process, they do not want to have a better process. They rather do not wish people to be allowed to vote at all.
There are however no arguments that the Catalan Parliament was elected in anything but the proper manner. Its suspension by the Spanish Constitutional Court – a body on which 10 out of 12 members are political appointees – is therefore not due to any doubts about the Catalan Parliament’s legitimacy.
No, the Catalan Parliament has been suspended because the Constitutional Court fears it may be about to vote in a way that the Spanish government does not like.
Note that it has not even done this yet. Nobody knows how its members will actually vote, until they vote. The Constitutional Court is suspending a democratically elected body in case it takes a democratic vote of its members.
This makes the EU look pretty silly. It was looking pretty silly anyway. I telephoned the Cabinet today of Frans Timmermans, the EU Commissioner who told the European Parliament that Spain was entitled to use force against the Catalans and it had been proportionate. I spoke to a pleasant young man responsible for the “rule of law and fundamental rights” portfolio in the Cabinet. I got through by using my “Ambassador” title.
Here is the thing. He was genuinely shocked to hear that people thought the Commission’s support for use of force was wrong. He stated that it had not been the intention of Timmermans to say the use of force was proportionate, rather it must be proportionate. He became very agitated and refused to answer when I repeatedly questioned him as to whether he thought the use of force had in fact been proportionate. I suggested to him rather strongly that in refusing to acknowledge the disproportionate use of force, he was in effect lying. I pointed out that Timmermans had supported use of force and said “rule of law” over and over again, but scarcely mentioned human rights.
Here is the thing. It was plain that his shock was genuine, and he had no idea whatsoever of the social media reaction to Timmermans speech. I told him to search Timmermans on Twitter and Facebook and see for himself, and he agreed to do so. The problem is, these people live in a Brussels bubble where they interact with other Eurocrats and national diplomats, and members of the Establishment media, but have no connection at all to the citizenry of the EU. Nor had he seen the Amnesty International report, which I subsequently emailed him.
The rule of law is not everything. Apartheid was legally enforced in South Africa. Mr. Weber’s Nazi antecedents had laws. British colonialism was enforced by laws. Nor is the administration of the law always impartial. Apartheid had its judges. Pinochet had judges to enact his version of the “rule of law”.
Actually all dictators are very big on “the rule of law”.
The most sinister thing Timmermans said to the European Parliament was “There can be no human rights without the rule of law”. Sinister because he did not balance it with “there can be no rule of law without human rights”.
What Spain is attempting now to impose on Catalonia is rule of law without democracy. I am going to be most interested to see how Brussels manages to justify that. We are seeing a whipping up of hatred by a central government against a national and linguistic minority and a suppression of its freedoms and institutions.
The highly politicized Spanish Constitutional Court, in suspending a democratically elected parliament because it does not like its views, has pointed up today that it is not sufficient for the EU to simply parrot “rule of law”. Spain currently has a Francoist Party in power with a Francoist judiciary intent on closing down democracy in Catalonia.
The rule of law within the EU has to stem from democracy, and to respect human rights. Neither is true in Rajoy’s Spain.
Craig Murray is an author, broadcaster, human rights activist, and former diplomat. He was British Ambassador to Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004 and Rector of the University of Dundee from 2007 to 2010. The article is reprinted with permission from his website.