Spain’s Central Electoral Board (JEC) agreed on Friday to strip Catalan premier Quim Torra of his position as deputy in the Catalan Parliament following his 18-month ban from public office for disobedience.
In December, the Catalan Regional High Court found Torra guilty of disobedience for refusing to remove banners supporting jailed independence leaders from public buildings during an election campaign, which violated regulations on political neutrality. The ruling, however, is not definitive until the Supreme Court issues a decision on Torra’s appeal.
Catalan premier Quim Torra
But the conservative Popular Party (PP), center-right Ciudadanos (Citizens) and far-right Vox called upon the JEC to remove Torra from his post as deputy, meaning that he would not be able to continue serving as Catalan premier, as the regional leader must also be a deputy. The JEC agreed by a very tight margin – seven votes to six – that the Catalan Regional High Court’s disobedience ruling effectively stripped Torra of his eligibility to be a deputy, given that it was a “crime against the public administration.”
The members of the JEC who voted against the decision argued that the electoral board does not have the power to adopt a resolution to remove an elected official. The JEC’s decision also goes against an agreement reached earlier by the Barcelona electoral board, which dismissed the right-wing parties’ request to strip Torra from his position as deputy.
The JEC decided against Torra by a very tight margin of seven votes to six
In an extraordinary assembly on Saturday, the Catalan Parliament, which is controlled by pro-independence groups, approved a resolution that rejected the JEC’s decision as a “coup that contravenes the will of the Catalan people.” According to the chamber’s resolution, only the Catalan Parliament has the power to remove Torra from office. It argues that the decision is a “new [Article] 155 that has not been approved by the Senate,” in reference to the provision of the Spanish Constitution that allowed former prime minister Mariano Rajoy to temporarily strip Catalonia of its autonomous powers following the 2017 breakaway bid.
Torra is already assuming that the Supreme Court will back his removal. “It is very likely that this process will end in my disqualification from office a few months from now,” he said in a televised interview on the regional station TV3.
But the separatist leader invoked the regional parliament’s support for him on Saturday as a good reason to disobey the Supreme Court. Torra said that sovereignty resides in the Catalan Parliament. “We need to move on from this notion of supreme courts or electoral boards. Where does sovereignty reside? It was very important to underscore the sovereignty and inviolability of the Parliament,” said Torra.
English version by Melissa Kitson.