The footsteps of a snap election have been getting louder in Spain amid the country’s socialist minority government’s unrequited efforts to find necessary support from other political parties in Parliament for the government’s 2019 budget. Jose Luis Abalos, the minister of public works in Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s administration, said in a meeting Monday in Madrid that early general elections cannot be ruled out as “one of their options” and may be held on the same day as municipal, regional and European elections on May 26, 2019. “You can’t venture anything, between now and May there is a lot of time,” he said.
Articles about voting issues in the Kingdom of Spain.
Tens of thousands of Catalans congregated in Barcelona on Monday to mark the first anniversary of the region’s unilateral and illegal independence referendum as groups of pro-independence activists blocked roads, motorways and a high-speed rail line and surrounded the Catalan parliament. Police in the city estimated that about 180,000 people took part in a rally in the city on Monday evening. Tensions flared between police and protesters as some hardline demonstrators jumped over barriers at the entrance to the parliament. There were similar scenes outside the Barcelona headquarters of Spain’s national police. Crowds of students filled the city’s central square on Monday afternoon, waving yellow, red and blue separatist flags and chanting “1 October, no forgiving, no forgetting”. Nearby, others let off smoke bombs and fireworks.
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez dropped his pledge to call an early election in Spain less than three weeks after taking office. In his first interview since ousting Mariano Rajoy with a no-confidence vote on June 1, 46-year-old Sanchez said he aims to see out the final two years of the parliamentary term. “I plan to call elections in 2020, and so to see out the legislature,” Sanchez told state television broadcaster TVE Monday. “After the confidence motion, we need a period of time to get back to normal before calling an election.”
Spain has a new prime minister after a parliamentary vote Friday led to the ousting of incumbent Mariano Rajoy. Speaking to the Spanish parliament just before the vote, Rajoy said he would accept the result and wanted to be the first to congratulate the leader of the opposition Socialist Party, Pedro Sanchez, as his successor. A long-running corruption trial — known as the Gurtel case — found dozens of people linked to Rajoy’s governing People’s Party (PP) guilty of benefiting from illegal kickbacks. That prompted Sanchez to push for a vote of no-confidence against Rajoy.
Lawmakers in Catalonia elected a fervent separatist as the new chief of the restive region Monday, ending a leadership vacuum of more than six months and setting the scene for more confrontations with the Spanish government. Quim Torra, a former corporate lawyer who went on to lead a prominent pro-secession group, vowed to build an independent Catalan republic by working under the leadership of his fugitive predecessor, Carles Puigdemont. Puigdemont is in Germany fighting extradition to Spain, where he is wanted for allegedly using public funds and orchestrating an “insurrection” to get the wealthy northeastern region around Barcelona to break away from Spain. Torra was elected 66-65 in a second round vote after he failed to secure an absolute majority in the 135-strong Catalan Parliament over the weekend. Four lawmakers with the far-left anti-establishment CUP party abstained.
Plans by Catalan separatists to re-elect their region’s former president in absentia were blocked Wednesday by Spain’s Constitutional Court. The court agreed to consider the Spanish government’s challenge of a legal change approved by Catalonia’s separatist-dominated parliament that paved the way for Carles Puigdemont’s election while he fights extradition from Germany to Spain. By accepting the case, the court effectively ended Puigdemont’s chances of being re-elected to the post the Spanish government removed him from in October. A ruling will take months, but pro-independence parties in Catalonia need to elect a new chief by May 22 or risk the calling of a new election.
The former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, whose push for regional independence plunged Spain into its worst political crisis for 40 years, has abandoned his attempt to return to office and is stepping aside in favour of a candidate who is currently in prison. Puigdemont used a 13-minute video shared on social media on Thursday night to confirm reports he was no longer seeking the presidency. He said that “with the greatest sadness” he had informed the speaker of the Catalan parliament that he was unable to retake the post and that an alternative candidate should be chosen.
Catalonia’s parliament speaker on Tuesday postponed a session intended to re-elect the region’s fugitive ex-president, saying the planned meeting would not take place until there were guarantees Spanish authorities “won’t interfere.” The decision comes after Spain’s top court ruled Saturday that Carles Puigdemont, who has fled to Belgium and faces arrest if he returns, could only be re-elected if physically present in the parliament in Barcelona. The court also ordered that he must obtain permission to appear at parliament from the judge investigating him over Catalonia’s independence bid. Puigdemont is one of more than a dozen Catalan political figures facing possible rebellion and sedition charges following the previous parliament’s illegal and unsuccessful declaration of independence in October, which brought Spain’s worst political crisis in decades to a head. The decision leaves the future government of the prosperous region in something of a limbo.
Spain’s top court said Saturday that Catalonia’s fugitive ex-president must return to the country and be present in the regional parliament to receive the authority to form a new government. The Constitutional Court ruled that a session of Catalonia’s parliament scheduled for Tuesday would be suspended if former leader Carles Puigdemont tries to be re-elected without being physically present in the chamber. The court also said that Puigdemont must seek judicial authorization to attend the session. Catalonia’s separatist lawmakers have been considering voting Puigdemont back in as regional chief without him returning from Belgium, weighing options that included another parliament member standing in for him or him addressing the lawmakers via video.
A new report says that Russian hacking operations to support Catalonian independence continue and could intensify. The Spanish Defense Ministry’s Center for Strategic and Defense Studies published the report this week. It says Russia is destabilizing Spain as tensions grow in the northeastern region. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy hoped to ease tensions by holding local elections last month. Instead, the voting returned the pro-independence majority to the regional parliament. In another protest of the Spanish government, the party then nominated exiled leader Carles Puigdemont as president. Spanish defense minister Maria Dolores Cospedal, as well as EU and NATO officials, have expressed suspicion about Russian interference in Catalonia.