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Moves to pick up a new president speed up

Parliament speaker to make statement on Wednesday as jailed nominated candidate tells judge of decision to step down



20 March 2018 03:04 PM


Guifré Jordan | Barcelona

Catalonia now looks a bit closer to having a new president. The Catalan Parliament speaker, Roger Torrent, announced on Tuesday that he will make a statement on Wednesday at noon after learning of the current presidential candidate's intentions to step down as MP. The events unfolded after a hearing in a Madrid court.

The presidential candidate, Jordi Sànchez, who has been in prison for five months, attended the hearing in which three judges had to decide whether to accept his latest appeal to be released or not. This time Sànchez had a different argument to convince the court over his freedom: he is willing to step down as MP “in the coming weeks,” as his defense told the magistrates. Although the prosecutor asked the judges for Sànchez to be kept behind bars, the court will have the final say shortly.

The Catalan president needs to be an MP in Parliament. This means that if Sànchez does step down, he will no longer be able to take office. Sànchez’s candidacy, Junts per Catalunya, has been insisting over the past few weeks that he continues to be candidate despite Spain’s courts having so far blocked his bid by not letting him attend the chamber. This, despite the opposition groups’ pressure to find another candidate. Yet now everything could change and a second backup plan could come to light in the coming hours.

MP on a bail, new candidate?

After Madrid blocked the bids of two MPs for Catalonia’s leadership, Carles Puigdemont and Jordi Sànchez, all eyes are on the pro-independence parties, expected to choose someone else. During the past few days all attention has been directed at one man: Jordi Turull. He is one of the most senior MPs for Puigdemont’s candidacy, Junts per Catalunya, and was one of his government’s ministers. He spent a month in jail for the independence case and now he is free on a bail.



Investiture at Easter?

Newspapers have been speculating over the possibility of him assuming the post for days, and a deposed minister for the same cabinet, Meritxell Serret, said on Tuesday that he was the chosen man. Yet later on in the day she took back her statement. A spokesman for Junts per Catalunya also said the next candidate has not yet been decided. Also the pro-independence Esquerra party told its MPs to cancel any trip that they might have planned for Easter as the investiture debate could be held as soon as next week.

The unionist parties’ stance is clear: Jordi Turull is not a suitable candidate either. Unlike Puigdemont and Sànchez, he is in Barcelona and able to attend his potential investiture, but he is one of the investigated officials for the independence case. For the Socialists, Turull “would not fit” with the conditions to be a working president. Ciutadans’ leader, Inés Arrimadas, said that he is being investigated for misuse of public funds – for the independence case. People’s Party member and Spanish government delegate in Catalonia, Enric Millo, said that the Catalan leader needs to be someone “clean and cleared from any judicial cause.”

CUP, decisive role

If all these moves are confirmed, the focus will move to the minor far-left CUP party. It is essential for the pro-independence majority in the chamber, but so far it is rejecting an agreement with allies Junts per Catalunya and Esquerra, on the grounds that their plans have “significant and decisive gaps” in how they aim to bring about an independent Catalonia.