Puigdemont against snap election but willing to return as president

Former government head says institutions must be "strong" in face of potential guilty verdict for jailed leaders, and he remains at "disposition" of Catalan parliament

Former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont during a joint press conference with Quim Torra in Brussels. (Photo: Natàlia Segura)
Former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont during a joint press conference with Quim Torra in Brussels. (Photo: Natàlia Segura) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

September 4, 2019 06:06 PM

Former president, Carles Puigdemont, says that calling an early election in Catalonia would only weaken the country's institutions, and added that he remained "at the disposition" of the Catalan parliament should it try to again elect him head of government.

"The strengthening of the institutions is not compatible with an early election, and the Catalan government and parliament have to give a strong response," he said on Wednesday, in a press conference in Brussels with current president, Quim Torra.

Although calling a snap election in Catalonia is one of the options floated as a suitable response should the Supreme Court find Catalan politicians and activists tried for the failed 2017 independence bid guilty, Torra has also ruled out the possibility.

However, on Wednesday, Torra did back the exiled Puigdemont one day retaking the post at the head of the Catalan government, and he reiterated that eventually swearing in his predecessor remains a main political aim.

In exile since fall 2017

Puigdemont was president during the bid to split from Spain in fall 2017, but he left for Belgium after parliament's declaration of independence led the Spanish government to impose direct rule on Catalonia. Puigdemont faces arrest should he return.

After the pro-independence parties held on to their parliamentary majority in the Catalan election on December 21, 2017, the chamber prepared to reinstate Puigdemont at a distance, but cancelled the session after warnings from the Spanish judiciary.

Puigdemont was elected an MEP in May, but Spain blocked him from taking up his seat in the European Parliament. On Wednesday, former and current president said the primary aim was to see Puigdemont able to occupy his seat in the European chamber. 

Yet, Puigdemont did not rule out returning one day as Catalan president. "When I am an MEP, as the two posts are not compatible, I will have to make a decision," he said, adding: "I can't say it any clearer than that."

Puigdemont and Comín launch MEP appeal

Meanwhile, Puigdemont and his former minister also in exile in Belgium, Toni Comín, have appealed to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) against the ruling preventing them from taking their seats as MEPs while their cases are being reviewed.

Shortly before the opening session of the European Parliament at the beginning of July, the European Union's General Court rejected the demands by the former Catalan government officials to "provisionally" occupy their seats in the chamber.

The CJEU will consider the appeals while the General Court rules on the suit brought by the two prospective MEPs against the EU Parliament. Yet, no date for a hearing has been set, unlike for jailed party leader, Oriol Junqueras, whose case will be heard on October 14.