Deadline for appointment of president set for May 22
If no new Catalan leader is elected within two months, an automatic snap election would be called for mid-July
Today’s plenary session might not see a Catalan president sworn in, after the far-left CUP party’s rejection of Jordi Turull’s bid, but it is relevant anyway. The reason is that a deadline to appoint a new Catalan leader has now been set for May 22. This two-month deadline comes after the first investiture debate following the December 21 election, which means two months from today. If no candidate is elected in this time, a snap election will automatically be called for 54 days afterwards. That is mid-July. It would be the first time in democracy in Catalonia that an election is repeated.
For three months, the two-month clock had not begun counting down, as the Parliament had still not held a debate to pick a president. The deadline for such a session should have expired on January 31, but it was twice delayed because the Spanish courts blocked two candidates nominated for the post. Thus, the deadline could not be set until today.
On January 30, a debate to swear in Carles Puigdemont was to be held by proxy. Yet, after the Spanish Constitutional Court blocked him from taking office from Belgium, the Catalan parliament speaker delayed the session. A month later, Puigdemont gave way to Jordi Sànchez, the number two on his ticket. As Sànchez is in prison, he asked the Supreme Court for permission to attend his swearing-in debate, which was to be held on March 12. However, permission was denied and the speaker delayed the session once more.
Although a potential snap election has no precedent in Catalonia, it does have one in Spain. The lawmakers in the Spanish Congress failed to elect a president after the December 2015 election, and another vote was held half a year later. After more than 300 days without a government, Mariano Rajoy was once again appointed president for a second term in June 2016. Ciutadans and the majority of socialist MPs backed him for the post.