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President Torra to be removed from power: what's next?

Second-in-command Aragonès is expected to become interim chief and an early election is set to be held in February

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28 September 2020 02:18 PM

by

Guifré Jordan | Barcelona

It has never happened before, but under the provisions of Article 7 of the Catalan presidency law, the Catalan president must cease in their role in the case of "a non-appealable criminal conviction that carries disqualification from public office."

Now that Quim Torra has been given a final conviction that includes barring him from office, the general procedure of what happens next is established.

Although the fact that there is no precedent means there may be uncertainty about some of the steps, the final stage is clear: electing a new president and, if this fails, calling an automatic early election.

Taking into account that the pro-independence parties, with a majority in the chamber, have already said that they will not propose an alternative to Torra, all the odds say that Catalonia is now heading to an election that might take place around February.

Take a look at the upcoming procedures and their timings:

Notification

The Supreme Court upheld Torra's conviction, but as the Catalan high court (TSJC) made the original ruling last December, it is that institution that has to notify Torra of the decision from Spain's top judges, and as of Monday, September 28 at 1.15pm, this has not happened yet.

As soon as this happens, the Catalan official gazette (DOGC) will publish the fact that the Catalan president has been ousted, which will make the removal of Torra official.

Vice President Aragonès, interim president

The sacking of Torra automatically means that all government members' roles become interim, while a new president is elected.

According to the presidency law, a decree has to be issued declaring that the vice president, in this case Esquerra's Pere Aragonès, is the new interim president of Catalonia.

Yet, this step is somewhat uncertain because the law does not clarify who has to issue the decree, taking into account that there will be no president in place.

If the cabinet goes ahead with issuing the decree, it would be official confirmation that the courts' sentence is accepted – Torra hinted a few weeks ago that he might "disobey".

Functions of Aragonès' cabinet

While standing in as president, Aragonès will not be able to call an early election, put forward a budget or any laws stemming from the parliament.

Yet, the interim cabinet can approve decree-laws and other regulations in "urgent" situations. Its main function has to be managing everyday affairs.

The coalition deal between pro-independence Junts per Catalunya and Esquerra in 2018 provided that the former holds the presidency – while this happened with Torra, it will not be the case with Aragonès, but talks have been underway in the past few weeks to agree on the exact functions of the interim executive and the weight of each party.

Parliament to seek replacement for Torra

The Catalan parliament has to be officially informed of the decree that confirms Aragonès as acting president, after which the parliament's president/speaker will begin the normal procedure set out by law.

Within 10 days, the chamber speaker, Roger Torrent, will talk to all parties to assess whether there might be consensus to pick a new president – only unionist Ciudadanos, with 36 out of the 135 seats, has showed an interest in presenting a candidate.

This means that Torrent will declare that there is no majority in a parliamentary act which might be a plenary session around 10 days after Torra is ousted – alternatively, he could call a plenary session to have a debate on any candidates put forward, even if it were obvious that they would not succeed.

Elections in February

Either of these two sessions would trigger a two-month period for the chamber to look for a candidate – except for anything highly unexpected, once this deadline expires around December, Aragonès will be obliged to sign a decree calling an early election.

Torrent has already confirmed on September 25 that he will follow the official steps provided, despite it being an exceptional circumstance and even though it is already clear that no alternative to Torra will be found.

The vote will be called for 54 days later as the law rules, meaning that Catalans will head to the ballots around February

All in all, Catalonia will spend around 124 days with an interim government before a vote is held following Torra's sacking – and the time to form a new cabinet after the election will have to be added to this count.

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  • Image of the Catalan parliament empty, on July 18, 2018 (by Guillem Roset)

  • Image of the Catalan parliament empty, on July 18, 2018 (by Guillem Roset)

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