Tuesday, 23 January, 2018

Carles Puigdemont could be re-elected as Catalonia's president

Puigdemont Carles Puigdemont could be re-elected as Catalonia's president
Bennie Garza | 13 January, 2018, 22:56

However, it is unclear how Mr Puigdemont would lead the regional government from Brussels as he could be arrested if he returns to Spain.

"It's evident that for governing Catalonia you have to be in Catalonia, you can't do that via WhatsApp or as a hologram", said Ines Arrimadas, the leader of the anti-independence Ciutadans (Citizens) party.

Puigdemont, who was ousted as part of the Spanish government's takeover of Catalonia, risks being detained if he comes back, as do four other ex-ministers who fled with him. The two options - which would either see Mr Puigdemont attending the Parliament on a video call or a delegate reading the inauguration speech on his behalf - are now being studied by lawyers.

JpC won 34 seats in the December 21 regional elections, while ERC won 32 with the radical separatists CUP claiming 4 seats to give pro-Catalan independence forces a majority in the 150 seats Catalan Assembly.

Their dominance of the chamber, however, depends on elected politicians are either imprisoned without trial, or who are exiled, and who will not be able to vote unless they are released or give up their seats to someone else on the party list. But a new president can form government with a simple majority in a second attempt.

An Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya spokesman said Mr Puigdemont will propose to speak via video conference or get a fellow party member to read the speech required by regional leadership candidates.

Both officials spoke anonymously because they weren't authorized to be identified in news reports.

The parties' announcement Wednesday raises the specter of a renewed push for independence - and also raises hard questions about how, exactly, Puigdemont might go about governing.

In a Catalan election December 21, the three main separatist parties won 70 of the 135 seats in the regional Parliament, with 47.5 percent of the vote - nearly identical to the result in 2015.

The two separatist parties have also agreed to elect a separatist parliamentary speaker at the inaugural session on January 17.

However, another issue is that although separatists have a majority, the rules of the Catalan assembly dictate that deputies can not delegate their vote and with Puigdemont in Belgium and Junqueras and other elected deputies either in jail or in exile and in theory unable to vote, that majority effectively vanishes.

"The desire to be free from Madrid is rising, it is in the majority and it is lasting over time, despite the huge difficulties it faces", he wrote in an editorial for the Politico Europe website. That prompted the Spanish government in Madrid to dissolve the regional parliament and call fresh elections.

"Madrid must be made to understand that what is needed is dialogue, negotiation and agreement on the future relationship we Catalans want to have with Spain - one based on respect, recognition, cooperation and equality".

This story was reported by The Associated Press.

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