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.
Articles about voting issues in the Kingdom of Spain.
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.
Catalonia’s new parliament on Wednesday elected a pro-secession speaker, virtually guaranteeing that the push for independence for Spain’s northeastern region will continue as its lawmakers prepare to elect a new government. The opening session of the new Catalan assembly came amid looming questions about the role that fugitive and jailed politicians will play within the chamber’s separatist majority and the future regional government. Ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, who fled to Belgium in October dodging a Spanish judicial probe over a foiled secession attempt, wants to be reinstated to his old job. But he faces arrest if he returns to Spain and legal hurdles if he wants to be voted in from abroad by the regional assembly.
Spain: Madrid to maintain direct rule if self-exiled Catalan separatist reelected: Prime Minister | Reuters
Spain rejected as absurd suggestions that Catalan separatist Carles Puigdemont could lead the region from exile if elected president by the new Catalan parliament, and said if he were chosen Madrid would maintain direct central rule. Puigdemont fled to Brussels in October after Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy fired him as Catalonia’s leader for declaring an independent republic following an illegal referendum. He faces arrest and possibly decades in jail if he returns to Spain. With only days before Catalonia’s parliament convenes to elect a new regional government, separatists said Puigdemont was their candidate to lead the region again. They are exploring the possibility he could do so by video link from Brussels.
Catalonia’s two main separatist parties have agreed to support the re-election of ousted leader Carles Puigdemont as president, in a sign that pro-independence groups are eager to ratchet up the tension with Spain’s central government. The separatists’ agreement is the first significant step toward forming a new government in the restive Spanish region following regional elections Dec. 21. That vote was called after Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy imposed direct rule on the region in October in an attempt to quell the separatists’ push to secede from Spain. When a new and law-abiding government is seated in Catalonia, Madrid has said it would end direct rule.
Spain’s King Felipe VI has urged Catalan leaders to respect their region’s diversity and avoid another confrontation over independence in a Christmas speech. Felipe’s remarks on Sunday came three days after separatist parties in Catalonia, led by ousted president Carles Puigdemont, won an absolute majority of seats in a parliamentary vote. The wealthy north-eastern region’s newly elected parliament must “face the problems that affect all Catalans, with respect to plurality and bearing in mind their responsibility to the common good”, the monarch said. “The road cannot lead again to confrontation and exclusion, which as we already know generate nothing but discord, uncertainty and discouragement.” Spain’s central government called the election after sacking Puigdemont’s cabinet, dissolving the Catalan parliament and stripping the region of its treasured autonomy following an independence declaration on 27 October.
Catalonia’s separatists look set to regain power in the wealthy Spanish region after local elections on Thursday, deepening the nation’s political crisis in a sharp rebuke to Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and European Union leaders who backed him. With nearly all votes counted, separatist parties won a slim majority in Catalan parliament, a result that promises to prolong political tensions which have damaged Spain’s economy and prompted a business exodus from the region. Rajoy, who called the elections after sacking the previous secessionist government, had hoped Catalonia’s “silent majority” would deal separatism a decisive blow in what was a de facto independence referendum, but his hard line backfired.
Catalonia’s pro-independence parties won a major victory Thursday: Together, they secured a five-seat majority over all other parties in the Catalan Parliament. Separatists were triumphant about their victory. But here’s the problem: The separatist victory is a manufactured product of Catalonia’s electoral system, in which voters cast their ballots for a single party list and seats are awarded to parties proportionally using the d’Hondt formula within each of Catalonia’s four provinces. As I’ve explained before, this system is stacked in favor of the separatists — which is how the three pro-independence parties won a parliamentary majority while receiving just 47.7 percent of the vote. Three factors skewed the results. First, Catalonia gives the three more rural provinces, where separatist parties do well, 15 more of the 135 total deputies than they merit based on population. Conversely, Barcelona, the most unionist province, is underrepresented. This is known as “malapportionment.” Had Catalonia allotted seats fairly among the provinces, pro-independence parties would have fallen one seat short of a majority.
Catalans flocked to the polls on Thursday for an election that could strip pro-independence parties of absolute control of the region’s parliament, though prospects of it ending the country’s worst political crisis in decades appear slim. Final surveys published last Friday showed separatists and unionists running neck-and-neck, though the same data suggests the pro-independence camp may still be able to form a minority government. That would keep national politics mired in turmoil and raise concerns in European capitals and financial markets. However, the secessionist campaign has lost some momentum since it unilaterally declared independence in October to trigger Thursday’s vote, and one of its leaders took a conciliatory tone towards Madrid in comments published this week.