Puigdemont’s party faces uphill election battle as jailed candidates unable to join campaign
As electoral authority approves Junqueras’ press conference from prison, JxCat seeks same allowance for Jordi Sànchez
The party of former president Carles Puigdemont is seeking a breakthrough in the upcoming Spanish general election, but polls predict an uphill battle for JxCat to become Catalonia’s biggest pro-independence party in Congress.
With Puigdemont running in the European election from his exile in Belgium, the JxCat party chose activist-turned-politician Jordi Sànchez as its top candidate in Spain.
Jailed since October 2017 for his role in the independence bid, and currently facing trial in Spain’s Supreme Court, Sànchez’s request to leave prison in order to join the electoral campaign was turned down.
Two other JxCat candidates, former ministers Josep Rull and Jordi Turull, were also prevented from leaving jail to take part in the campaign.
Puigdemont’s former vice president, Oriol Junqueras, was also denied temporary freedom as the candidate of Esquerra party in both the European and Spanish elections. But in an unprecedented decision, Spain’s electoral authority allowed Junqueras to give a press conference via videolink next Friday, hosted by the Catalan News Agency—the first time a jailed pro-independence leader will answer questions from journalists live.
Already leading the polls in Catalonia, ERC could further benefit from the media attention Junqueras's appearance will attract and distance itself from its two pro-independence competitors, JxCat and—way down in polls—far-left Front Republicà.
Following the electoral authority’s surprise decision, Sànchez also requested to give a press conference from prison, but it’s unclear whether it’ll be approved on time.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court denied another request from Sànchez, Rull and Turull to be able to attend campaign rallies during the recess of the Catalan independence trial.
In the last Catalan election, held in December 2017 after Spain suspended Catalonia’s self-rule and sacked the government, Puigdemont—running from Belgium—managed to win more seats than Junqueras—running from jail—, thus allowing JxCat a greater control of the pro-independence ruling coalition with Esquerra.