Agreement to unblock votes of prosecuted MPs
Parliament plenary session to resume this evening after quarrel between pro-independence parties threatened the government's stability
It was a dramatic day in the Catalan Parliament today, as differences between the two biggest pro-independence parties at one point even threatened the stability of the governing coalition. But at the eleventh hour, they reached an agreement.
Parliament was expected to sit at midday, but the session was postponed over a formality issue on how the MPs currently being prosecuted for rebellion would vote. The Spanish Supreme Court ruled last spring that six MPs in jail and in exile had to be suspended from their posts.
On Tuesday, pro-independence parties passed a motion rejecting the court suspension, which affects former leader Carles Puigdemont, former vice president Oriol Junqueras, and four other former ministers, all being prosecuted for organizing a referendum on independence last October. The motion also stated that the MPs could be substituted by a party colleague. And this "could" caused a stir.
While Esquerra (ERC) designated Sergi Sabrià as the substitute for MPs Oriol Junqueras and Raül Romeva, Junts per Catalunya (JxCat) rejected replacing Puigdemont and three other party members in prison, arguing that they will continue to delegate their votes instead, and that a court cannot strip them of their political rights as MPs.
"The plenary of the parliament is sovereign, as the law says, and parliament has decided not to suspend us and, therefore, we will exercise our rights in the most useful way," said Puigdemont after the motion was passed. His party presented a letter by the group spokesman, Albert Batet, stating that he would vote by proxy for the prosecuted MPs.
However, the Parliament speaker, Roger Torrent, and the parliament lawyers, warned that Batet's letter was not enough. They insisted that the JxCat votes would not be counted if the MPs did not put it in writing, themselves, that they were being represented by the party group spokesman.
After dramatic negotiations, and even rumors that the government – a coalition between JxCat and ERC- could be at risk, the MPs agreed on sending the letter. And the plenary was due to resume. Hours after initially expected.