The Spanish Constitution no longer belongs to everyone

05.05.2013

Source: Diplocat

CataloniaNewEuropeanStateThe 1978 Constitution was designed to allow flexibility and room for political compromise. But its interpretation has now been taken over by the two main political parties in Spain, which have insisted on taking a very restrictive view of devolution and multiculturalism. Such an interpretation might represent the opinion of a majority in Spain, but by using the Constitution to impose restrictions on a particular minority, they have undermined the consensus upon which the Constitution was built.

Many Catalans now question the legitimacy of a Constitution which is controlled exclusively by other people and which is regularly used against them.

Some changes, such as permitting a Catalan referendum, could easily be made by interpreting the existing text in a less-restrictive manner.  But this is impossible in the current political climate.  And a major change in the text of the Constitution is impossible for procedural reasons as it would require both chambers of the Spanish Parliament to approve the reform with a ⅔ majority, followed by a General Election, followed by futher votes in both chambers and then finally a referendum.

The impossibility of reforming the Constitution is important because the present text has become so politicized.  The Constitutional Court is no longer seen as a neutral forum for justice. Appointments to the Court are tightly controlled by the two main political parties, and judges are not afraid to get involved directly in political questions. Given that democractic constitutions allow some degree of flexibility, courts in other countries argue that judges should not overturn decisions taken by the elected representatives of the people, unless the wording of the Constitution really cannot be interpreted in a way which permits those decisions. But Spanish Courts believe that there is only one “correct” interpretation of the Constitution, and so are much more ready to replace a political decision with their own. By allowing so little margin for democratic processes, the Court appears to be acting politically and puts its own legitimacy into question. This was the case in its 2010 ruling against devolution, when many Catalans failed to see how the Court could so readily overturn a law which had been approved by the Catalan Parliament, by the Spanish Parliament and by a consultation in Catalonia,