Parliament speaker looks for presidential candidate
Far-left CUP confirms that the party will not vote for Jordi Sànchez, the candidate proposed by Carles Puigdemont
The Catalan parliament speaker Roger Torrent launched a new round of talks to choose a candidate for president of the Catalan government on Monday. Yet, his success in finding someone with the support needed to secure the post and put an end to the current political stalemate is far from assured.
In the first meeting of the day, representatives of the far-left CUP party told Torrent what they already announced on Saturday: they would not back Jordi Sànchez, the candidate proposed by Carles Puigdemont after temporarily abandoning his bid to retake the presidency from Brussels while avoiding prosecution by Spanish courts.
According to CUP, the problem was not Sànchez himself, but the political agreement behind his candidacy. Carles Riera, the party leader, dismissed it as “autonomist”—in reference to the current political status of Catalonia as per the Spanish Constitution, an autonomous community of Spain.
“If they’re not even capable of carrying out this small act of disobedience, we ask ourselves whether they would be able to undertake those that building a Republic would entail”
Carles Riera · CUP MP
Sànchez, an activist who’s been in jail since mid-October, has the support of the two main pro-independence parties: Puigdemont’s Junts per Catalunya (JxCat) and Esquerra Republicana (ERC). Without CUP’s support, they could still go ahead with Sànchez’s election. Yet, it would come at a high cost: Puigdemont and another pro-independence leader in Belgium would be forced to resign as MPs and cede their seats, as the Spanish Supreme does not allow them to vote at a distance.
Riera challenged JxCat and ERC to defy the Spanish justice system and allow Puigdemont to vote by proxy: “If they’re not even capable of carrying out this small act of disobedience, we ask ourselves whether they would be able to undertake those that building a Republic would entail.”
ERC does not agree with CUP’s claims. Sergi Sabrià, a spokesperson for the party, stated that “everybody knows what ERC is and what our objectives are: reaching an effective republic.”
A dilemma for pro-independence parties
Riera’s proposal reflects one of the bigger dilemmas currently faced by pro-independence parties: the easiest way to retake the Catalan government would be to propose a candidate free of charges, but that would be seen as a concession to the Spanish government, which dismissed Puigdemont and all government members after a declaration of independence last October. Electing Puigdemont or Sànchez would be seen as an act of defiance welcomed by some independence supporters, but could prompt the Spanish government to prolong the takeover of the Catalan administration.
Catalunya En Comú-Podem prefers "progressive" president
Meanwhile, the leader of Catalunya en Comú-Podem, Xavier Domènech, said that his party will not support Sànchez's candidacy for president, arguing that he would not be able to be sworn in.
Stating a preference for a "progressive" president, Domènech also said that his party will not support Oriol Junqueras' candidacy for president either. The ERC party leader is also behind bars and so would not be able to be sworn in as Catalan president, he argued.
Catalan Socialists: Sànchez's candidacy not "feasible"
Catalan Socialist party leader, Miquel Iceta, told the Catalan parliament speaker during their meeting that Sànchez's candidacy for president is not "feasible." "Is it suitable for Catalonia to appoint a president that is in pre-trial prison?" asked Iceta in a press conference after sitting down with Roger Torrent.
The leader of the Catalan Socialists also mentioned CUP's wish to defy the Spanish justice system and allow Puigdemont, as well as ERC MP Toni Comín, to vote by proxy from Brussels. Referring to CUP’s proposal, the Catalan Socialist party leader asked the parliament speaker to "respect legality."
PP: Sànchez's candidacy "doomed to failure"
For his part, the leader of the People's Party in Catalonia, Xavier García Albiol, asked the parliament speaker "to accept neither Sànchez's candidacy nor any other candidacy of a person involved in judicial proceedings for serious crimes." Albiol stressed that Sànchez's candidacy is "doomed to failure," after the CUP party refused to vote for him as president in the investiture debate.