Tuesday

21st Aug 2018

Catalan separatists still plan to get Puigdemont elected

  • 'We're facing a worsening of the situation,' said political scientist Oriol Bartomeus (Photo: Jordi Boixareu/ZUMA Wire/dpa)

Catalan separatists are still trying to elect Carles Puigdemont as the region's leader, whilst the German government endorsed on Monday the Spanish judicial course after the Catalan separatist leader's arrest on its soil over the weekend.

The three separatist parties - Puigdemont's Together for Catalonia (JxCat), the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) and the Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP) - called on Monday for an emergency session of the Catalan regional parliament.

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The parties, which have a majority in the assembly, tabled a resolution calling on the parliament to "adopt al the necessary means to guarantee" that Puigdemont, as well as his party colleagues Jordi Turull and Jordi Sanchez, can be candidates to the government leadership.

That parliament session will be at 10 AM on Wednesday.

"The hardliners of the independence movement are regaining control over the more pragmatic [ones]," Oriol Bartomeus, a political science professor at Barcelona's Autonomous University, told EUobserver.

Now "they want to go back to plan A" and try to get Puigdemont elected, he said, adding that "the best thing for them is to create a worse situation in order to mobilise a majority in favour of independence," he said.

The political scientist pointed out that the situation had "smoothened" over the past week, with Puigdemont renouncing the government presidency and pragmatic separatists trying to find a leader who would be acceptable to the Spanish government.

The Catalan parliament was due to hold a debate on Saturday to vote over Turull's candidacy to the government leadership.

But the process was stopped on Friday when the Supreme Tribunal charged 13 separatists leaders and jailed five of them including Turull.

Puigdemont, who was charged with sedition, rebellion and embezzlement, was arrested in Germany on Sunday after crossing the Danish border by car.

'Worsening of the situation'

He was on his way from Finland, where he participated in a conference, to Belgium, where he has been living in exile after fleeing Spain last October.

"Each time we are at a crossroad between a good and bad solution, we always have the bad solution," Bartomeus noted, adding that separatists and unionists shared responsibility in the situation.

After demonstrations and clashes that left some 90 people injured in Barcelona on Sunday, the tension was still high on Monday.

"We're facing a worsening of the situation," Bartomeus noted.

He said that escalation of violence was "a real risk" as "well organised groups are trying to create a scenario where Spanish police and military could kill people" and mobilise the population against the Spanish state.

Parliament speaker Roger Torrent (ERC), Catalonia's highest official as long as the region is administered from Madrid, met with the region's police chief on Monday.

In a TV address on Sunday evening, he called for calm but said that Catalonia was going through the "darkest moments for democracy and fundamental rights" and called for a "common front for fundamental rights and liberties" against Madrid.

On Monday, Spanish deputy prime minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said that Torrent was "overstepping his functions", and that his "main and only function" is to find a candidate for the region's government.



She insisted that for Madrid, only a president who is "within the law and out of a cell" would be acceptable.

Germany backs Spain

Meanwhile, Puigdemont was expected to be heard by a German judge Monday evening.

German judges have 60 days to examin his case and decide whether to send him to Spain.

"Spain is a democracy with a rule of law," Angela Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said on Monday.

The spokesman insisted on Monday that since the start of the crisis in Catalonia, Germany has "supported Spain's effort to guarantee the law and constitutional order."

In Brussels, a European Commission spokesman said that the issue was about "judicial cooperation between two member states" and that it had "no comment to make".

He said he would "not move away from" the commission's position that the Catalan crisis is a Spanish domestic issue.

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