Speaking at an economic forum in Madrid this week, Spain’s Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, said that the Catalan Parliament must appoint a ‘normal’ president. It echoes the comments of a man called Xavier García Albiol, who, at the end of November last year, said that he’d like to close the Catalan broadcaster, TV3, and re-open it with ‘normal’ people to make it more ‘plural’. I write ‘a man called’ Albiol because that’s what he is – he’s a man. Okay, he’s a tall man. He’d like to think of himself as more than just a tall man – perhaps a tall politician, too (tall and ‘normal’, obviously). It’s true he was the tall mayor of Badalona (north east of Barcelona), and he’s the tall president of Rajoy’s PP party in Catalonia – but they were an absolute disaster in the 21st December elections. Other than being a tall man, his Wikipedia entry states that ‘thanks to his height, he [also] played basketball’. I mention all this because Mr Albiol took it upon himself to criticise the experience and qualifications of another possible candidate for the presidency of the Catalan government this week: Elsa Artadi. She actually has a very impressive CV. She graduated in economics from Barcelona’s Pompeu Fabra University, and then completed a master’s before receiving a doctorate from Harvard University. She’s lectured at universities in Milan and China, was a member of the World Bank, and has also been a consultant for the same organisation in Washington and a member of the European Economic Association. She entered politics in 2011 and is now an MP and spokeswoman for the JxCat party (Together for Catalonia). She’s 41 and shorter than Albiol. The man whose (only?) qualifications make him tall enough to play basketball has scorned her credentials and experience, regarding them as too low to lead the Catalan government. Not that she wants to, anyway.
Let’s get back to Rajoy’s desire for a ‘normal’ Catalan president. What does he mean by that? What is normal for Rajoy? He tried to clarify his comments by saying he wanted a ‘normal’ Catalan president invested using the ‘normal’ procedure – someone ‘who can be present at their investiture, and govern and debate with the opposition’. But that’s exactly what Carles Puigdemont wants to do, no? He wants to be present at his own investiture, without fear or threat of arrest. So I don’t believe that Rajoy’s definition of ‘normal’ is as simple as that.
A Spanish government spokesman, Pablo Casado, tried to further clarify ‘normal’. Casado is the Sean Spicer of the PP. That’s not a compliment. He’s continuously making gaffes on behalf of his party. His most famous crass comment was made in October last year, when he said Puigdemont might ‘end up like Lluis Companys’. Companys declared independence in 1934, was imprisoned for two years, and was later tortured and executed by Franco’s police in 1940 (after being captured in France and returned to Spain by the Nazis). Casado later said his comments referred to the 1934 imprisonment and not the 1940 execution (oh, thanks, Pablo), but the damage was already done. Politicians resign for much less in other countries, but not in Spain. Never in Spain.
Anyway, this week Casado tweeted that Rajoy’s desire for a ‘normal president’ really means a president that is ‘neither in prison, nor abroad, nor in criminal proceedings’ – and that ‘Catalonia cannot be hostage to the follies of one person’. But that doesn’t make sense, either. It is the PP itself instigating the imprisonments and criminal proceedings, because we all now know there’s no separation of powers in Spain. Yes, we do. We all know there’s an ‘unjust’ justice system in Spain (and some of it is to cover up the PP’s own corruption scandals). We all know that those in prison shouldn’t be there – even Amnesty International have finally said so (and the UN will surely follow). Those abroad shouldn’t have to remain abroad, either. Nor should there be any criminal proceedings based on anyone’s political ideology. As for Catalonia being ‘hostage to the follies of one person’ – that’s just pure nonsense. Is he saying that over 2m people in Catalonia are ‘abnormal’? Yes, in a sense, he is.
The definition of normal is ‘conforming to a standard; usual, typical or expected’. ‘Abnormal’ is deviating from what is ‘normal’, and ‘typically in a way that is undesirable or worrying’. It is clearly not ‘normal’ that the Speaker of the Catalan Parliament, Roger Torrent, has had to visit political prisoners this week, whilst trying to organise an investiture of the Catalan presidency. It is not normal to stop people voting. It is not normal to have refused political dialogue and to have not agreed some kind of legal vote or token referendum several years ago – and which would have resolved the Catalan issue, there and then, perhaps once and for all. It is not normal to order a nation’s police forces to brutally attack its own citizens. It is not normal to spend €87m failing to stop the referendum from taking place in the first place. Rajoy’s government has gone from searching the car boot of a printer’s cleaner for ballot papers in September last year, to now searching car boots for Puigdemont. That is not normal. It is also pathetic.
Rajoy’s government can’t justify the term ‘normal president’ by defining it as a president ‘who can be present at their own investiture’, or by a president who is ‘neither in prison, nor abroad, nor in criminal proceedings’. The real definition of ‘normal’ for Rajoy and the PP is someone who thinks like Rajoy and the PP. Despite they calling the elections on 21 December in Catalonia, they won’t now accept the result. It is undemocratic and a disgrace. I repeat: what’s not normal is that this Catalan issue has not yet been resolved by political dialogue, all because of the on-going incompetence and inflexibility of the Spanish government. The only way it will ever be resolved is through dialogue, but I believe it will now need international mediators.