The electoral board of the Barcelona constituency has instructed the city council to remove the “Free our Political Prisoners” banner currently hanging on the city hall’s balcony, as well as any slogans and posters that might be displayed on council premises in the same vein.

The board has agreed to allow an appeal by [unionist party] Ciudadanos and has informed the city that there are several political parties running in the December 21 Catalan elections whose candidates are currently in jail and their manifesto demands the release of those prisoners. Therefore, the electoral board has ruled that the banner and any other similar symbols contravene the “institutional neutrality” that is to be expected during an election process. Today Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera welcomed the board’s decision.

The electoral board’s ruling, as reported by the Catalan News Agency, argues that “several political parties are running in the elections with tickets that include candidates who have been remanded in custody pending trial, and one of their goals is for them to be released. For that reason the banner is inexorably evocative of those parties (ERC and PDECat) and may be mistaken with the slogans used by them ahead of the polls”. The ruling goes on to say that “given how not all the political parties and election candidates in Barcelona identify with the slogan, displaying it on a public building in the run-up to an election compromises the neutrality that is expected of public institutions and is in violation of Article 50.2 of the Polling Act (LOREG)”.

Only yesterday the central electoral board banned anyone manning a polling station from wearing on their lapel the yellow ribbon in support of Catalonia’s political prisoners. The decision includes the official representatives of political parties who will monitor the vote at polling stations with the argument that “they must observe complete neutrality”. Furthermore, the Barcelona board has prohibited TV3 [the Catalan public TV network] from using the phrases “government in exile” or “exiled ministers” [to refer to the Catalan officials currently in Brussels] because it believes that sort of language infringes upon the principle of unbiased reporting.

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Vicent Partal
Director de VilaWeb