One month for parties to avoid snap election
If the Catalan chamber does not swear in a president before May 22, election will automatically be called for mid-July
There is only one month left for the Catalan chamber to swear in a president. If Catalonia does not have a president before May 22, the Parliament will be dissolved and new election will automatically be called for mid-July. Up until now the pro-independence parties have been incapable of forming government although they won the majority at the election, called by the Spanish government, on December 21 last year.
Three candidates on the table
The candidacy of the deposed Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, 'Junts per Catalunya' (Together for Catalonia), which is the largest of the pro-independence options in parliament insists on three different candidates: the deposed president, Carles Puigdemont; the former grassroot leader, Jordi Sànchez; and the dismissed Minister for Presidency and Government spokesman, Jordi Turull.
'Together for Catalonia' has presented these three candidates in four different occasions, but all of them have failed. Prison, exile and the role of Spanish and European judiciary have been shaping Catalan politics throughout the last four months. Both Sànchez and Turrull are in preventive prison and Puigdemont is not allowed to leave Germany, as his extradition case is being processed in the state of Schleswig-Holstein.
However, 'Together for Catalonia' wants to exhaust these three candidacies before time is up on May 22. The pro-independence forces do not want new election, but there is only exactly one month left for them to find a valid and effective solution in order to swear in a president and try to dissolve Spain's direct rule on Catalonia applied by means of Article 155 from the Spanish Constitution.
Exile and imprisonment complicate things in Parliament
Initially, the president candidate was Carles Puigdemont, at that time exiled in Belgium. But when the former president was about to be sworn in on January 30, Parliament speaker postponed the parliamentary session to assure that Puigdemont would undergo a debate "with all guarantees" after Spain’s judiciary blocked his bid. A month after, Carles Puigdemont provisionally renounced the presidency and proposed former grassroot leader and number two from 'Together for Catalonia', Jordi Sànchez as the candidate.
This took the formation 'Together for Catalonia' to activate their Plan B. But this plan of Sànchez as Catalonia's president was met by two obstacles. On one hand, he was in preventive prison in Madrid and the Supreme court judge, Pablo Llarena, would not let him out of prison to attend his investiture. On the other hand, the pro-independence far-left CUP insisted on Puigdemont as the only candidate and would abstain at the voting in Parliament. Meanwhile, Parliament speaker once again postponed the investiture session, this time waiting for the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to process Sànchez' precautionary measures to guarantee his political rights, as the Supreme judge denied Sànchez to assist the plenary session. Later that month, 'Together for Catalonia' withdrew Sànchez' candidacy.
The same day as the pro-independence formation withdrew Sànchez' candidacy, the Supreme judge summoned the former Parliament speaker, Carme Forcadell; deposed Foreign Affairs minister, Raül Romeva; deposed ministers, Josep Rull and Dolors Bassa; and the Esquerra party leader Marta Rovira to appear in court 48 hours later to study if they should go to prison as well as the already jailed deposed Vice president, Junqueras; Home Affairs minister, Forn; and the two grassroot leaders, Sànchez and Cuixart. The day before the hearing in court, the Catalan chamber began to swear in the third option proposed by 'Together for Catalonia', the dismissed Minister for Presidency and Government spokesman, Jordi Turull. But the plenary session never came to its end and the day after, the summoned politicians were imprisoned. That same day, the UN urged Spain to take "the necessary measures" to guarantee Sànchez' "political rights."
Puigdemont detained in Germany
At the end of March, the deposed president, Carles Puigdemont, was detained in Germany close to the border with Denmark, when he was travelling to Belgium from Finland, to where he had been invited by a Finnish MP. At the time Puigdemont was imprisoned in Neumünster, the Catalan chamber agreed to guarantee the three president candidates' political rights for them to actually be able to be candidates. But when Sànchez was to be sworn in mid-April, the Supreme judge once again denied him to participate in the plenary session, both fiscally and also by telematic means. Puigdemont was released from German prison on bail on April 6, when the German justice ruled out the charges for rebellion, because of the lack of violence.
The countdown has begun
On Sunday, there is only one month left to swear in a president to avoid election in Catalonia. 'Together for Catalonia' insists that Puigdemont "has the legitimacy" to be a candidate. Moreover, they defend that the UN endorses Sànchez' candidacy and that the Supreme court judge has judicially misconducted it by hindering his investiture. And last but not least, they defend that the plenary session to swear in Jordi Turull never came to its end. The pro-independence party Esquerra accepts any of the candidates 'Together for Catalonia' proposes, whereas far-left CUP prefers Puigdemont. On the other hand, Catalunya en Comú - Podem, in between pro-independence and unionist blocs, wants a government the faster the better to end the direct rule via Article 155. The unionist parties want a candidate, who is not in any legal case.
It is uncertain what will happen this coming month. Some sources within 'Together for Catalonia' say that if Spain bans Puigdemont's bid again through the Constitutional court, it is necessary to celebrate election under the idea that all the candidates end up in prison or in "forced exile". Other sources say that once having failed to swear in any of the three candidates by all means, it will be time to propose a fourth candidate. A candidate who is not in any legal case, and whom cannot be blocked either by the Spanish government nor by Spain's judiciary.
At the moment, nine Catalan political leaders are in jail and seven, in exile, which would make it more difficult for the pro-independence parties to make up their electoral lists in the case of mid-July election. In addition, new election would extend Spain's direct rule in Catalonia, by means of Article 155.