MADRID – The two main parties advocating for the independence of the northeastern region of Catalonia from the rest of Spain showed their disagreement on Sunday over who the candidate for president should be for the upcoming investiture debate in the regional parliament.
Center-right coalition Junts per Catalunya (JxCat, “Together for Catalonia”) and center-left Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC, “Republican Left of Catalonia”) both have expressed their intention of reinstating what they call the “legitimate” Catalan government that was deposed in October by Madrid after it had promoted a referendum on independence deemed unconstitutional by the country’s top court.
However, the previous regional president, Carles Puigdemont, is now living in self-imposed exile in Brussels after an arrest warrant was issued wanting him for alleged rebellion, sedition and misappropriation of public funds.
Although Puigdemont has said he would return to Spain if he won the Dec. 21 regional election, his future remains unclear, which has prompted his allies in the struggle for independence – but electoral rivals – in ERC to float the possibility of an alternative candidate to the presidency.
Carles Mundo, an ERC member of the regional parliament and a former justice secretary in the dissolved Catalan government, said that if Puigdemont were to continue in Brussels avoiding imprisonment, the candidate should be his former vice president and leader of ERC, Oriol Junqueras.
Junqueras is currently under pre-trial detention in a Madrid penitentiary, pending a court case that will try him for alleged rebellion and sedition against the Spanish State.
On Jan. 4, Junqueras is set to face a review of his case at the Supreme Court, which could decree his release on bail.
“This would fit in with the idea of legitimate government that has been outlined at all times,” said Mundo on the possibility of Junqueras assuming the presidency.
Meanwhile, Jordi Turull of JxCat countered the proposal by defending Puigdemont’s candidacy and urged ERC not to “waste energy on other hypotheses,” since it would represent a “surrender.”
JxCat won 34 seats out of 135 in the recent election, while ERC obtained 32. The sum of both parties, plus the abstention of the four representatives of the left-wing and also pro-independence Candidatura d’Unitat Popular (CUP, “Popular Union Candidacy”), would be enough to pass the 68-vote threshold needed for a majority vote to invest their candidate as president.
Sources from JxCat’s leadership on Sunday said their aim was to reinstate “all legitimate Catalan institutions to their previous status” before the Spanish government invoked Article 155 of the constitution, which stripped Catalonia of its autonomy in response to the region’s unilateral declaration of independence.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy had called for new elections in December to replace the dissolved regional parliament and executive in a bid to quell the separatist movement, but his plan backfired when pro-independence parties again won enough seats to govern.