Interior, culture and business ministers to be replaced
President Quim Torra prepares surprise change in cabinet two weeks before his disqualification is reviewed
The Catalan president, Quim Torra, is preparing a surprise change in government, as first published by the daily 'La Vanguardia' and confirmed by the Catalan News Agency (ACN) on Thursday morning.
The interior minister, Miquel Buch; the culture minister, Mariàngela Vilallonga; and the business minister, Àngels Chacon, are expected to be sacked by Torra imminently.
The lawyer Miquel Samper will replace Buch in the home affairs office, while economist and former MEP Ramon Tremosa will be the new head in the business department and professor Àngels Ponsa, the new culture minister.
Chacon was the only minister who has stayed in the PDeCAT party recently, with the four other members of the pro-independence center-right bloc quitting the party to join Carles Puigdemont's new political force, Junts per Catalunya (JxCat).
Buch was in the spotlight for the response of the Catalan police to the protests immediately after the verdict of the 2017 referendum leaders was out and said he would have "understood" his sacking "in the frame of the October '19" riots that took place at the time.
Government sourced said to ACN that Torra has lost confidence in the three ministers to be replaced, and wants to strengthen the cabinet in the event that he is removed from power.
The government crisis comes two weeks before the Supreme Court reviews Torra's disqualification on September 17.
Spain's top court might confirm his conviction in the weeks afterwards, meaning that he will be ousted from power and an automatic snap election will be called if the parliament fails to find a successor – in fact, both government partners, JxCat and ERC, have agreed to leave the presidential post vacant in this event.
Yet, Torra has repeatedly said that he will not allow for the judges to force the election, but he will call it – in a recent interview said he has already decided the date of the vote, but did not reveal it.
Torra's move has been heavily criticized by opposition parties, who have accused the government of being in "agony" and claim the move is a result of the divide between PDeCAT and JxCat.
Gabriel Rufián, an MP in Madrid for the left-wing pro-independence party Esquerra Republicana, which is also Torra's coalition partner, said he thought it was "interesting that certain people are purged to control the party," alluding to the PDeCAT-JxCat rift, "but not for corruption cases such as the 3% one," referring to the scandal that marred the center-right bloc's predecessors, Jordi Pujol's Convergència.