Sunday

18th Feb 2018

Puigdemont ghost hangs over Catalan vote

  • Puigdemont in the Catalan parliament in October. It seems unlikely he will try attend the session and risk being arrested (Photo: parlament.cat)

The Catalan parliament is due to vote on Tuesday (30 January) to elect the president of the regional government, in a debate that will mainly be over the fate of exiled separatist leader Carles Puigdemont.

Puigdemont, who was the region's leader until his dismissal by the Spanish government in October, is the sole candidate, with the support of three separatist parties which hold the majority in the parliament after elections in December.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Puigdemont's fate "is only an expression of the underlying conflict" (Photo: Matthias Oesterle/ZUMA Wire/dpa)

But Spain's Constitutional Tribunal said on Saturday that Puigdemont's election will be valid only if he's physically present in the parliament, with an authorisation from the Supreme Tribunal. 



Puigdemont has been in Belgium since October, to escape charges of sedition, rebellion and misappropriation of funds over the organisation of an independence referendum and a unilateral independence declaration.

Spanish judges have said that he would be arrested if he came back to Spain.

On Monday, Puigdemont posted on Instagram a picture of a street leading to the Catalan parliament.

Symbolic vote

His Spanish lawyer said that he didn't know where the separatist leader was. It remains unlikely that he will actually try to reach the parliament with the risk of being arrested.

On Monday, Spanish police increased checks at the country's border with France, in case Puigdemont was driving back from Belgium.

"It is obvious that his investiture will be very difficult," noted Jaume Lopez, a political science professor at Barcelona's Pompeu Fabre University.

On Monday, Puigdemont asked the speaker of the parliament, Roger Torrent, to grant him "refuge" and use the "necessary means" to ensure his rights as deputy.

In his letter to Torrent, he said that the Spanish government was "obstructing" his mandate as deputy and his candidacy for president of the government.



At the same time, the Constitutional Tribunal warned Torrent and other parliament leaders that they could face charges if Puigdemont was to be elected in violation of the conditions set by judges.

The leaders of the parliament will meet on Tuesday morning, to decide whether they go ahead with the debate and vote with Puigdemont as sole candidate.

At 1pm, just two hours before the session is due to start, the Constitutional Tribunal will discuss whether to uphold or lift the obligations on Puigdemont that it decided on Saturday.

The most probable outcome on Tuesday is a "symbolic vote", with Puigdemont elected and the process suspended by Spanish judges, said Oriol Bartomeus, a political science professor at Barcelona's Autonomous University.

Then there would be two options, he said: either a new vote to find an alternative president within a month, or new elections.

'Russian roulette'

"But legally speaking, we don't know what could be the next steps towards new elections," he pointed out.

So far, the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), the main ally of Puigdemont's PdeCat/JUntsxCat party, has supported his claim to the presidency despite the legal risks.

"The people have chosen a candidate and we will not renounce. Puigdemont is our candidate," ERC's spokesman said on Monday.

But cracks have appeared in the separatist alliance.

"It is essential to have a government. If Puigdemont must be sacrificed, we'll have to sacrifice him," Joan Tarda, a respected ERC member of the Spanish parliament, said on Sunday.

"The separatist victory on 21 December against all the powers obliges us not to play the Russian roulette," he told Catalan daily La Vanguardia.

"Maybe ERC would like not to have to vote for Puigdemont, but they don't have enough seats to build a majority for another candidate," Bartomeus said.

He added that letting Puigdemont fall would be considered as a betrayal and that "nobody wants to be seen as the traitor".

Over a month after elections that were called by the Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, to solve the crisis in Catalonia, the situation remains volatile.

"My impression is that now the institutional conflict revolves around Puigdemont, but it is only an expression of the underlying conflict," said Jordi Munoz, a political scientist at the Universitat de Barcelona.

Situation in Puigdemont's hands

He noted that the suspension of Catalonia's autonomy through article 155 of the constitution, the control of the region's finances by Madrid and the referendum question "would remain even if the Puigdemont issue was sorted out in some way".

"We are living a political situation in which the central government has relied on the resolution of the conflict by judges," Lopez noted for his part.

He pointed out that some in Madrid, including in the government, have insisted that article 155 should remain in place not only until there is a new government in Barcelona, but until it is in line with the 'constitutional' forces.

But for the Spanish government, as well as for separatists in Barcelona, any new development will depend on what Puigdemont chooses to do.

"He has the whole situation in his hands," observed Bartomeus.



The political scientist said that the objective of Puigdemont, who still consider himself as Catalonia's legitimate leader and still has political credit despite his Belgian exile, was to push for new elections rather than letting a new candidate stepping in.

"At the end, will happen what he wants to happen," he said.

Interview

Catalan crisis will 'go on for months'

The president of the EU's Committee of the Regions, Karl-Heinz Lambertz, said that both the separatists and Spanish authorities made mistakes.

Catalonia prepares for rule by Skype

The two biggest parties in Catalonia have vowed to put Puigdemont back in office despite Madrid's threat to maintain direct rule.

Catalan separatists mull 'symbolic' presidency

Catalan separatists leaders are discussing a plan that would allow their exiled leader keep influence in the region - even if he cannot be elected president of the government.

Stakeholder

Behind the scenes of the Nordic model

The Nordic is comprised of 74 regions and, combined, is the 12th largest economy in the world. The State of the Nordic Region 2018 gives a unique look behind the scenes of the world's most integrated region.

News in Brief

  1. Merkel: Nord Stream 2 pipeline poses 'no danger'
  2. Spanish king in Barcelona next week
  3. Turkey jails journalists for life
  4. Make budget cuts in farm and regional funds, the Dutch say
  5. UN: Hungary's anti-migration bill is 'assault on human rights'
  6. Journalist Deniz Yucel freed in Turkey
  7. New organic farming bill not ready until late spring
  8. Commissioner: Western Balkans in EU is 'obvious'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsUzbekistan: Investigate Torture of Journalist
  2. EPSUMovie Premiere: 'Up to The Last Drop' - 22 February, Brussels
  3. CESICESI@Noon on ‘Digitalisation & Future of Work: Social Protection For All?’ - March 7
  4. UNICEFExecutive Director's Committment to Tackling Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Children
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region 2018: Facts, Figures and Rankings of the 74 Regions
  6. Mission of China to the EUDigital Economy Shaping China's Future, Over 30% of GDP
  7. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.Suing the Governments of Macedonia and Greece for Changing Macedonia's Name
  8. Dialogue PlatformBeyond the Errors in the War on Terror: How to Fight Global Militarism - 22 February
  9. Swedish EnterprisesHarnessing Globalization- at What Cost? Keynote Speaker Commissioner Malmström
  10. European Friends of ArmeniaSave The Date 28/02: “Nagorno-Karabakh & the EU: 1988-2018”
  11. European Heart NetworkSmart CAP is Triple Win for Economy, Environment and Health
  12. European Free AlllianceEFA Joined the Protest in Aiacciu to Solicit a Dialogue After the Elections

Latest News

  1. EU asks charities to explain anti-abuse measures
  2. ECB, Budget, EU elections This WEEK
  3. EU states stay mute on implementation of mercury bill
  4. Baltic states demand bigger EU budget
  5. Germany raises concerns over Hungary's 'Stop Soros' bills
  6. EU ties Brexit transition talks to divorce agreement
  7. EU divided over Western Balkan enlargement
  8. Facebook and Twitter weak on protecting users, says EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSUDrinking Water Directive Step Forward but Human Right to Water Not Recognized
  2. European Gaming & Betting AssociationGambling Operators File Data Protection Complaint Against Payment Block in Norway
  3. European Jewish CongressEJC Expresses Deep Concern Over Proposed Holocaust Law in Poland
  4. CECEConstruction Industry Gets Together to Discuss the Digital Revolution @ the EU Industry Days
  5. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Relations in the New Era
  6. European Free AlllianceEnd Discrimination of European Minorities - Sign the Minority Safepack Initiative
  7. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Diversity Shouldn’t Be Only a Slogan” Lorant Vincze (Fuen) Warns European Commission
  8. Dialogue PlatformWhat Can Christians Learn from a Global Islamic Movement?
  9. European Jewish CongressEJC President Warns Europe as Holocaust Memory Fades
  10. European Free AlllianceNo Justice From the Spanish Supreme Court Ruling
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Solutions for Sustainable Cities: New Grants Awarded for Branding Projects
  12. Mission of China to the EUTrade Between China, Belt and Road Countries up 15%