The secessionists’ insistence on swearing in Carles Puigdemont as the Catalan premier, even if it is via a long-distance appointment, is a grotesque headlong dash to nowhere. Given the absence of constructive governing proposals for Catalonia, Puigdemont and his followers are choosing to raise the tension in the probably erroneous belief that a scandalized world will clamor against an “oppressive” Spanish state that prevents a democratically-elected premier from setting foot on his own territory unless it is behind bars.
No matter what clever new ideas are sought to deal with the situation, as the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) is doing, or how much parliamentary bylaws get twisted out of shape, as defended by Puigdemont’s Junts per Catalunya, the fact remains that a remote or proxy appointment is a violation of the law and an affront to common sense. Going ahead with it would undermine not so much the state trying to prevent it, but the politicians ready to turn Catalonia into one enormous circus. It would even be amusing, were it not for the seriousness of what’s at stake.
Former premier Puigdemont has become the worst enemy for the future of Catalonia. Emboldened by the outcome of the December 21 election – even though his list did not come out on top – his demand to be reinstated without returning to Spain has one positive aspect: it is sowing division among radical secessionists, and forcing them to face their own contradictions.
It would be pointless for ERC leader Oriol Junqueras to argue that he needs to be released from prison to do his work in the regional parliament, if Puigdemont is allowed to act as deputy and regional premier without being physically present. Puigdemont seems unaware of the distance that separates his personal reality from that of those who, while embarked on the same secessionist adventure, have faced the full weight of the law. The clearest refusals to play his game have so far come from former parliament speaker Carme Forcadell and former Catalan justice chief Carles Mundó.
Catalonia needs to shake off Puigdemont and his farcical proposals as soon as possible. Votes cannot grant him, or any other politician, impunity before the law – a law that he has consciously violated and plans to keep on violating. The outcome of the December 21 election allows the secessionist parties to try to form a government, and they are legitimately entitled to do so. But while doing that, obviously they need to scrupulously observe the law. It is astounding that we should have to remind people who want to govern a democratic country about this basic principle.
On Thursday, in a new bid to get released from preventive prison, three jailed secessionist leaders underscored that they are giving up on unilateral independence and promising to engage in politics within the bounds of the law from now on. These personal projects are in stark contrast with Puigdemont’s fantasies about becoming the first virtual president in the history of Western parliaments. The ERC has promised that there will soon be a government in Catalonia. This government will logically be pro-independence. The separatist camp cannot risk a repeat election. Its first task should be to restore self-government in the region and offer a bare minimum of stability to counter so much deceitful, farcical ambition. Catalonia’s economy, democracy and public image are at stake.
English version by Susana Urra.