Buenos Aires Times

world Catalan political situation continues

Catalan and Spanish officials locked in legal battle over ex-leader

The Catalan Parliament wants to make Puigdemont the region's prime minister again, despite his forced removal and outstanding arrest warrant in Spain. But Madrid has moved to prevent this from happening any way it can.

Monday 29 January, 2018
Ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, right, shakes hands with Catalonian Parliament President Roger Torrent last week in Brussels.
Ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, right, shakes hands with Catalonian Parliament President Roger Torrent last week in Brussels. Foto:AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert

Catalonia's fugitive ex-president Carles Puigdemont will soon request permission from a Spanish judge to attend a parliamentary session to form a new regional government, a separatist lawmaker says.

Josep Rull told Catalunya Radio on Sunday that Puigdemont will do that in the next 24 hours to attend Tuesday's investiture debate in Barcelona.

It's just the latest update in a weeks-long political saga over the future leadership of the region.

Puigdemont fled to Belgium after Catalonia's parliament made an unsuccessful declaration of independence on October 27 in violation of Spain's Constitution. He is wanted in Spain on possible rebellion and sedition charges, where an outstanding arrest warrant still exists and is likely to be arrested if he returns.

But the Catalan Parliament decided it wanted Puigdemont to be its leader, despite his inability to be physically present. It planned to possibly have him address the chamber via video conference.

But Spain's Constitutional Court has halted that plan firmly in its tracks. After the central government requested it suspend the investiture session as long as Puigdemont was the candidate, the court ruled Saturday that Puigdemont must be present at parliament to be chosen as the region's chief.

It also said he must ask for a judge's permission to be present, which he now plans to do.

Wavering support

While Puigdemont and Rull's Together for Catalonia party insist he is the only candidate for the regional presidency, the other main pro-secession party is wavering.

Joan Tarda of the separatist Republican Left party said while they prefer to see Puigdemont restored to power, their supreme goal is to have a pro-independence government in place by Wednesday to avoid a new election.

"If we have to sacrifice Puigdemont, then we will have to sacrifice him," Tarda told the La Vanguardia newspaper on Sunday.

Catalonia has become Spain's deepest political crisis in decades. Spain responded to the October declaration of independence by firing the regional government, dissolving Catalonia's parliament and calling a new regional election. Contrary to the Spanish government's wishes, separatist parties in Catalonia then regained a slim majority in the December election.

Polls consistently show that most Catalans want the right to decide the region's future, but are evenly divided over splitting from Spain.

-TIMES/AP

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