Pro-independence parties agree to reinstate Puigdemont as president
Catalan leader to try to take office from Brussels either via video or through another MP representing him
The main pro-independence parties have reached an agreement to reinstate Carles Puigdemont as Catalan president, the Catalan News Agency confirmed on Wednesday morning. Puigdemont’s candidacy, Junts per Catalunya, and Esquerra Republicana also agreed to use the pro-independence majority in the Parliament to control the bureau of the chamber. Puigdemont is now in Brussels and he is very likely to be arrested and jailed as soon as he returns to Catalonia. Thus he suggests to be sworn in at a distance, with himself taking part in the investiture debate via video or another MP representing him.
Investiture at a distance, to be challenged
Yet any of these options is likely to be challenged by some other parties in the Catalan chamber or the Spanish government. Spain's president, Mariano Rajoy, said two weeks ago that it is “absurd” that Puigdemont intends to be sworn in from Brussels. “It is not even a juridical question, but a common sense one,” he said on December 29. The Catalan branch of the People’s Party said this week that the proposal is “surreal” while unionist Ciutadans and the Socialists also rejected the deposed Catalan president’s plan. Any of these might submit an appeal to the investiture in the Spanish Constitutional Court.
Yet Esquerra Republicana sources said that its juridical services will assess whether swearing in Puigdemont at a distance is viable. The pro-independence party also said earlier this week that the Parliament lawyers have to have their say on the issue. Esquerra’s secretary general, Marta Rovira, and Carles Puigdemont sealed the accord in Brussels on Tuesday evening.
Majority of seats, but 8 MPs in prison or Brussels
Apart from agreeing in trying to swear in Puigdemont, both Esquerra and Junts per Catalunya leaders agreed to take the majority of the posts in the Catalan Parliament bureau. The constitutive session in the chamber is set for January 17 at 11am, and a new bureau is expected to be appointed that day, including a Parliament president.
The pro-independence parties have most of the seats in the chamber with 70, four of which are in the far-left CUP party, with the majority at 68. However, eight of them are unlikely to be able to turn up in the Catalan hemicycle, because they are either in prison or in Brussels with an arrest warrant hanging over them as soon as they set foot in Catalonia. Some of them might have to give way and not take office as MPs before January 17 in order to ensure the pro-independence majority.
Who will be the next Parliament president?
With the agreement made public on Wednesday morning, Puigdemont and Rovira might have worked out how to make the most of the 70 seats – or at least 66, one more than the the rest of the parties in the chamber – they won in the December 21 election. Junts per Catalunya’s MPs are due to meet in Brussels this Friday with the distribution of the bureau seats on the table. It is still unclear whether Carme Forcadell (ERC) will repeat as Parliament president.