Mixed reaction to idea of investing Catalan president at a distance
Pro-independence allies prefer to leave proposal in Parliament lawyers’ hands, while unionist groups rule out Puigdemont taking office from Brussels
How Carles Puigdemont can take office as Catalan president from exile in Brussels, with the threat of arrest hanging over him should he return to Catalonia, has become a hot political topic as the deadline to form a new government draws near. Indeed, on January 17, the new term will start with the constitutive session in Parliament.
Puigdemont’s JxCat ticket won the most votes among the pro-independence parties in the December 21 election, and with the secessionist bloc renewing its majority in the Parliament, Puigdemont is best placed to once again take office as Catalan president.
“ERC's priority is to ensure a majority in favour of the Republic"
Roger Torrent · spokesperson for Esquerra Republicana
Yet, wanted by the Spanish authorities for rebellion and sedition due to his role in Catalonia’s push for independence, JxCat has suggested that Puigdemont be invested as president at a distance, granting him some legal protection. In the event he sets a foot in Catalonia, he is very likely to be arrested and jailed. On Monday, some of the other political parties reacted to the idea.
“Ensuring a majority” the priority, says ERC
ERC, the pro-independence ally of Puigdemont’s JxCat candidacy, has so far avoided taking a clear position on the idea of investing the dismissed Catalan president at a distance. An ERC spokesman said on Monday that his party preferred to leave the “legal technicalities” on whether the possibility is feasible or not to the Parliament lawyers.
The party’s priority, said the spokesman, is to “ensure a majority in favour of the Republic.” While ERC backs Puigdemont for president, the spokesman nevertheless made it clear that it was a secondary issue to that of forming a pro-independence majority government “that can govern from the first minute.”
Meanwhile, a spokesman for also pro-independence Demòcrates de Catalunya restated his party’s position that the Catalan government that was dismissed when direct rule was imposed by the Spanish authorities should be reinstated, with Puigdemont at its head and with the jailed ERC chief, Oriol Junqueras, once again as vice president. Yet, the first step towards that, said the spokesman, is for the pro-independence parties to regain “control of the Parliament Bureau”.
“Illegal” proposal “surreal”, says PP
One party that is totally against the idea of Puigdemont taking office at a distance is Spain’s ruling PP party. Such an initiative would be “illegal” said a PP spokesman on Monday, who added that his party would refer any attempt to invest Puigdemont from Brussels to the courts. Calling the idea “surreal” and “nonsensical”, the PP spokesman also insisted that Catalan Parliament regulations “do not allow” such a move.
It is an opinion that the leader of the Catalan socialists agrees with. PSC’s Miquel Iceta insisted on Monday that the formula to invest a Catalan president at a distance “does not exist” and that -with other Catalan politicians still in prison or in exile- the priority is “not to choose people who cannot fully exercise their responsibilities.” Meanwhile, a spokesman for the PSOE Spanish socialists also ruled out the idea, calling it “absolutely outlandish”.
Puigdemont “living in the Matrix”, says Cs head
It was echoed by Ciutadans (Cs) party head, Albert Rivera. Although Cs got the most votes in the December election, it does not have enough support to form a government. Rivera accused Puigdemont of “living in the Matrix” and ridiculed the idea of investing him as president at a distance. “Those of us who have not taken the pill do not understand his world,” said Rivera, who added: “He thinks he can govern via Skype or Whatsapp.”