The parliament of Catalonia meets on Wednesday for the first time since the elections of December 21, 2017. The most interesting question will be the conundrum: can the president of a territory rule from permanent exile?
This intriguing situation arises because Carles Puigdemont, the former regional president and current leader of the Junts Per Catalunya coalition of independence-seeking parties, wants to resume his role. But he fled to Belgium (Washington Post) in October and still faces a Spanish arrest warrant.
Pro-independence parties gained a narrow majority of parliamentary seats in the December poll, but remain shy of absolute support with a figure of 47.5 percent.
However, pro-Spain parties are not united and do not command all the other 52.5 percent.
Puigdemont has suggested he run his presidency from Brussels, appearing before the Parliament on a huge video-link screen. Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, dismissed this idea, as quoted by newsagency Bloomberg: “If someone wants to take charge, they have to be physically present.”
Rajoy, according to the Financial Times, said his administration would continue to run Catalonia if Puigdemont tried to lead it from another country.
The timetable for Catalonia looks like this:
- 17 January: The Parlament (Catalonia’s parliament) meets to form groupings
- 6 February: Deadline for investiture of office-holders
- April: President and all office-holders must be confirmed and in place
Article 67.3 of Catalonia’s Statute of Autonomy states that if two months pass from the first vote on a presidential candidate without anyone being successful, the Parliament is “automatically” dissolved. So another election is not beyond the bounds of possibility.
However Puigdemont does have the support of all the independence parties, who agreed to his candidacy at a Brussels meeting on January 9, as the New York Times reports.
Spanish national paper El País, in an editorial, described the proposal to install Puigdemont while he remains outside Catalonia as “a grotesque headlong dash to nowhere” (link in English).
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