A declaration signed by three hundred Catalan lawyers and jurists claims that Catalan, Spanish and international law allow Carles Puigdemont to be sworn in as president of Catalonia even if he is not personally present in the chamber. Their document was released before a report issued by the Catalan parliament’s legal department on the matter, which claims the opposite.
According to the jurists’ statement, the law advises against restricting the right of members of parliament to engage in political action when they are either abroad or remanded in custody. They claim that the law prohibits imposing “undue restrictions” on elected officials, given that it is essential for the basic right to political participation to be exercised on a level playing field to ensure that “the sovereign people can voice their views freely”. They emphasise the fact that the article in the parliament’s regulations on the swearing in of a president does not require candidates to be physically present in the chamber “as otherwise it might impede the exercise of their basic right to political participation”. And the text adds that “furthermore, Article 35 of the 2008 Act, which deals with the Presidency of the Generalitat and the Government, establishes that the Catalan government —and any bodies that support and assist it— may employ communication networks and any other means of communication to carry out their duty, so long as provisions are made to establish the identity of those sending and receiving messages and provided that the information, communication and messages exchanged (verbally and in writing) can be properly authenticated”.
The declarations argues that, as representatives elected in a free, democratic ballot, MPs must be able to carry out the public duty for which they were voted in, as well as manage that duty and handle public affairs themselves. The text emphasises that “any limitation imposed on that right would be detrimental to democracy” and it remarks that —as in any democratic country— Spanish law enshrines freedom, equality and political pluralism, whilst acknowledging the right to participate in public affairs through freely elected representatives. The jurists who signed the statement explain that participation must occur in such a way that all representatives are equally free to take office, without any limitations, including judicial ones. The lawyers also mention that the Catalan parliament’s regulations allow proxy voting under some circumstances, as established by the board and with the technology currently available, “by online voting or any other means that may be employed with full guarantees”.
The document also notes that basic rights must be interpreted in the broadest possible sense that is conducive to their exercise considering that “imposing any limitation or restriction might infringe upon the right to political participation”.
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