CATALAN CRISIS

Catalan Republican Left rejects fresh leadership bid by Carles Puigdemont

Party calls on Together for Catalonia to “decide on the next steps together” in order to avoid new elections

Catalan Republican Left spokesperson Marta Vilalta.
Catalan Republican Left spokesperson Marta Vilalta.EUROPA PRESS

Catalonia’s two main separatist parties appear to be in disagreement on the best strategy to break the ongoing political deadlock in the region.

On Monday, the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) rejected a second attempt by Junts per Catalunya (Together for Catalonia) to nominate ousted leader Carles Puigdemont, who is living outside Spain, as the next Catalan premier.

ERC leader

At a meeting held Monday night in Barcelona, the ERC, whose leader Oriol Junqueras is being held in pre-trial custody in a Madrid prison in connection with the rebellion probe, confirmed that it wants to avoid a fresh election and that it also wants to avoid disobeying existing laws.

The fresh attempt to invest Puigdemont with power comes after three failed nominations, the last of which lacked support from Catalonia’s third separatist group, the far-left anti-capitalist CUP party. If no government is formed by May 22, Catalans will be forced to go to the polls again.

Leaders of ERC said that Puigdemont’s candidacy is not viable and called for “an effective” government in Catalonia that is able to run day-to-day affairs. The priority for ERC is to end Madrid’s direct rule under Article 155 of the Constitution, which has been in place since the independence declaration of late October.

Party spokeswoman Marta Vilalta wants to meet with Junts per Catalunya to “determine the next steps together and consider all scenarios. New elections are not good for anyone, they would not solve anything and it would shortchange the pro-independence majority that emerged on December 21.”

Puigdemont was first nominated by his party following the snap elections of December 21, but his name was dropped after legal experts confirmed that he could not be sworn in remotely. At the time, Puigdemont was living in self-imposed exile in Belgium to avoid being tried for rebellion in Spain, and refused to return for the parliamentary debate legally required ahead of the swearing-in vote.

Last week the separatist majority in the Catalan parliament used an exceptional fast-track method to approve a legal change to the Presidency Law. The reform enables remote appointments in order to facilitate Puigdemont’s nomination, and it was passed in a 70-64 vote with strong criticism from opposition parties, who called it a useless act of propaganda and tailor-made to suit a specific candidate.

CUP takes stock

The radical CUP held a meeting of its own on Monday at which it assumed that neither Junts per Catalunya nor ERC are willing to openly defy Spanish laws again the way they did last year. Party leader Carles Riera warned that the separatist movement is drifting back toward a push for greater self-rule rather than outright independence, and said that in that case the CUP will withdraw its own support and go back to the opposition.

While ERC voted in favor of the Presidency Law reform, it feels that “it will be impossible to put it into practice” since the Constitutional Court will in all likelihood consider it illegal. Yet leaders are aware that failure to support the move could erode ERC’s own image to the benefit of Junts per Catalunya.

“They are prisoners of their own campaign rhetoric, and they need to find culprits if Puigdemont is not made president in the end. One culprit is the [Spanish] state for doing everything in its power to prevent it, and the other one is us,” said a ERC leader.

The Constitutional Court has already said that remote appointments are not legally possible, and the ERC says that separatists should not go down that road again – a reference to last year, when pro-independence parties ignored the court’s warnings and passed laws to help declare unilateral independence.

Puigdemont is currently in Germany awaiting a court’s decision on whether to extradite him to Spain to face charges of rebellion and misuse of public funds in connection with the illegal referendum and the unilateral independence declaration.

English version by Susana Urra.

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