Pro-independence parties keep Sànchez as presidential candidate
Spain’s ruling party insists jailed activist cannot stand, while parliament speaker calls for talks to confirm his bid
The main pro-independence party in parliament, Junts per Catalunya (JxCat), takes it as given that jailed activist Jordi Sànchez will be sworn in as president. “We have no doubt we will get through [the investiture] in the second round of voting,” said a JxCat spokeswoman in an interview on Catalan television on Friday. The spokeswoman also confirmed that her party had reached agreement on swearing in Sànchez with the other pro-independence parties, ERC and CUP, whose votes are needed for a majority in the chamber.
Sànchez, who is in jail awaiting trial for his part in the push for independence, was put forward as the presidential candidate when Carles Puigdemont was forced to withdraw his bid for the post after the Spanish courts blocked his intention to be sworn in at a distance. However, Sànchez’s investiture never took place, as Spain’s Supreme Court refused to allow him out of jail to attend the vote in parliament at the beginning of March. The judge justified his decision by arguing that there was a risk Sànchez would re-offend.
In the interview, the JxCat spokeswoman said that despite Puigdemont’s release from jail in Germany while he awaits a decision on his extradition to Spain, the party intends to continue backing Sànchez as president. In fact, the spokeswoman pointed out that Puigdemont himself called for Sànchez to be the presidential candidate in a letter to the party this week, especially given that the United Nations Human Rights Committee has urged the Spanish authorities to respect Sànchez’s “political rights”. From jail, Sànchez expressed his “complete willingness” to stand again as candidate for Catalan president.
PP insists on “clean” candidate
However, Spain’s ruling PP party played down both Puigdemont’s release and the confirmation that Sànchez will again stand as the presidential candidate, with a spokesman insisting that neither man can be sworn in as president. For the PP, the only chance for an effective investiture is for the pro-independence parties to choose a “clean” candidate, or someone who is not involved in legal proceedings. Nevertheless, the Catalan parliament speaker, Roger Torrent, on Friday announced he would be holding a new round of talks with political parties to make Sànchez’s bid official.
Whether Sànchez’s investiture goes ahead will ultimately depend on the courts. While the pro-independence parties hope the Spanish authorities will heed the UN committee’s call to respect Sànchez’s rights, it is not clear whether it will be enough for the Supreme Court to reverse its decision and allow him to attend his investiture. On Friday, an ERC party spokeswoman warned that if swearing in Sànchez proves impossible, the pro-independence bloc must “quickly find an alternative because we have always argued that now more than ever we need to recover our institutions,” she said in relation to the continuing suspension of Catalonia’s self-rule.
CUP insists on Puigdemont as candidate
Carles Riera, MP for the far-left pro-independence CUP party, has reiterated the platform's support for Carles Puigdemont. Following an announcement by Puigdemont's JxCat candidacy that they had a sure deal with both ERC and CUP to swear in Sànchez, Riera denied any agreement to do so. Regards support for the deposed president in Germany, Riera proclaimed "Today, stronger than before." They believe that he also "has more international legitimacy," now.
The first and only time a swearing-in debate was held and carried out this year for Jordi Turull, he was not elected, notably because the CUP withheld their four votes. And the anti-capitalist party remains steadfast in backing Carles Puigdemont as candidate - not Jordi Sànchez. They see Puigdemont as the only viable president, as he was dismissed by the Spanish government; in their eyes, accepting anyone else would legitimize Madrid's takeover.