NOTE! This site uses cookies

By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies. For more detalis, see Read more


What are you looking for?

Jailed MPs, Catalan speakers and far right in inaugural session of new Spanish parliament

The first session of the new Spanish parliament to take place in a unique climate


20 May 2019 05:59 PM


Daniel Wittenberg | Barcelona

The 13th incarnation of the Spanish parliament since the country's transition to democracy opens on Tuesday morning against the backdrop of an unprecedented set of circumstances.

Events in the month since the snap general election have confirmed that five of its members will be prisoners, both of its speakers will be Catalans, and an insurgent far-right party will take its first seats, yet it remains unclear exactly how the next Spanish government will be formed.

How do the inaugural parliamentary sessions work?

Simultaneous sessions in Spain's Congress (lower chamber) and Senate (upper chamber) will start at 10am with the elections of the speaker of each house and their deputies.

Then the 350 MPs and 266 senators – including the 48 MPs representing Catalonia – will one by one swear their allegiance to and promise to comply with the Spanish Constitution.

One of the main points of intrigue is how the pro-independence politicians, particularly those currently accused of rebellion against the state, might try to circumnavigate the oath.

The respective sessions will be chaired by the oldest member of each chamber.

Will imprisoned independence leaders take part?

Four of the newly-elected MPs and one of the senators-to-be remain in preventative prison as they stand trial at Madrid's Supreme Court on charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds relating to the independence referendum carried out unilaterally in October 2017.

However, ex-Catalan vice-president Oriol Junqueras, along with former ministers Josep Rull and Jordi Turull, and activist-turned-politician Jordi Sànchez have all been granted permission to appear at the inaugural session in Congress so that they can be sworn in as MPs.

Ex-foreign minister Raül Romeva will also be allowed to take his seat in the Senate.

The quintet will be able to move around freely in the chambers, raising the prospect of awkward run-ins with senior Spanish political leaders, but they will be escorted to and from the doors by police and taken back to prison immediately after the adjournment of the sessions.

The independence leaders, who fleetingly set foot in parliament on Monday to sign registration papers, could have future appearances restricted as they face suspension until the verdict of the Catalan trial, depending on the position the incoming speakers decide to adopt.

Who will be elected as Congress and Senate speakers?

A first in the history of the Spanish state, and in what is seen as a response to the Catalan crisis, the speakers of both the Congress and the Senate are set to come from Catalonia.

Meritxell Batet, the minister in Spain's acting Socialist government responsible for the autonomous territories, has been nominated for the influential role of Congress speaker.

After pro-independence parties vetoed the proposed appointment of Catalan Socialist leader Miquel Iceta for the Senate role, university professor Manuel Cruz is his replacement.

What happened in the Spanish general election?

Ten months after overthrowing the conservative People's Party (PP) government via a vote of no confidence, Pedro Sánchez's Socialist Party (PSOE) won the most seats in Congress for the first time since 2008, shoring up its status as the ruling party and that of Sánchez as president.

However, Sánchez found himself well short of an overall majority and still needs to secure the support of at least left-wing Unidas Podemos – as well as parties from the Basque Country and the Canary Islands – in order to win enough votes for Congress to allow him to keep power.

Pro-independence Esquerra Republicana resoundingly came top in Catalonia with imprisoned candidates at the center of its campaign – its first victory at any election in nearly a century.

The PP suffered the worst result in its history, losing more than half of its seats, but managed to hold onto its status as the main opposition party ahead of staunch unionist Ciudadanos.

Meanwhile, Vox became the first explicitly far-right party to gain major representation in the Congress, although it will likely have limited influence with less than a tenth of the seats.