Puigdemont nominated as candidate for president
Parliament president Roger Torrent asks for a meeting with Mariano Rajoy
Carles Puigdemont will be the candidate in the debate to pick a Catalan president to be held by January 31. The Catalan Parliament president, Roger Torrent, announced on Monday morning that Together for Catalonia’s leader is the MP with the most support for the post among lawmakers. Torrent did not disclose the date on which the debate will be held, nor how Puigdemont could be sworn in while still abroad. “I am aware of Mr Puigdemont’s judicial and personal situation, and of his absolute legitimacy to be the candidate,” said Torrent.
Torrent also announced that he will hold a meeting with the five dismissed government members –who are also elected MPs– in Belgium, including Puigdemont. The Parliament president said he had started the procedure to visit the three MPs still in prison. Torrent also urged the Spanish president, Mariano Rajoy, to meet him in order to “analyze and talk over the atypical situation in Parliament, in which eight MPs have seen their rights to political representation, and that of the citizens they represent, infringed.”
Puigdemont aiming to be sworn in at a distance
Although Puigdemont’s bid for president has the backing of the two main pro-independence parties, it will not be easy for him to achieve. He is abroad, and risks arrest and jail if he returns to Catalonia. Thus, he suggested being sworn in at a distance from Belgium, either via video or through an MP representing him. Yet, the Spanish government claims such a move would be illegal and would challenge any appointment by proxy in the Spanish Constitutional Court.
Puigdemont's parliamentary 'immunity' under discussion
Yet Puigdemont's candidacy, Together for Catalonia, did not rule out his attendance at the debate to pick a new president. On Friday, a candidacy official also said that they were studying the "political and judicial" implications of any "immunity" that MPs may have. Yet the day after, the Spanish Prosecutors Office warned Puigdemont and his ministers that parliamentary immunity does not prevent MPs from being sent to prison.
Spanish government responds
The Spanish government responded to Torrent's request on Monday, stating that "judicial matters are not a responsibility of the government president," thus hinting at the possibility of refusing to meet with Torrent, although no official confirmation has been issued yet.