MADRID – The Spanish government plans to lodge a legal challenge at the country’s top court to block a bid by the speaker of the Catalan parliament to reinstate the deposed former president of the region by naming him the sole candidate for an upcoming investiture vote, despite his self-imposed exile in Brussels, where he was avoiding an arrest warrant, Spain’s deputy prime minister said on Thursday.
At a press conference in Madrid, Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s conservative executive would request the Council of State – the highest advisory body to the government – to compile a case report into the legality of Roger Torrent’s decision to name Carles Puigdemont as the official candidate so it could be challenged at the country’s Constitutional Court.
“Torrent cannot propose Mr. Puigdemont as a candidate,” Saenz de Santamaria said. “He can propose another.”
She said that if the government’s case were admitted by the court, it would stop the decision in its tracks, adding that Puigdemont “cannot attend parliament.”
Saenz de Santamaria told the press at Moncloa, the prime minister’s official residence that Puigdemont “lacks the right to freedom of movement because as soon as he enters Spanish territory, he will be brought to justice.”
According to Saenz de Santamaria, the Popular Party government would also request that the Council studies whether Puigdemont would legally be able to govern from Brussels, where he fled when Spanish judiciary opened an investigation into accusations of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds in relation to his leading role in Catalonia’s outlawed unilateral declaration of independence on Oct. 27.
The vote prompted the Spanish State to trigger Article 155 of the Constitution, which ousted the regional government, dissolved the chamber and brought many of the prosperous northeastern region’s institutions under the direct-jurisdiction of Madrid.
Snap elections to revive the Catalan chamber saw a loose alliance of separatists parties cobble together a slim majority, which later unanimously gave their backing to propose Puigdemont has the sole candidate for the investiture vote which is slated for Jan. 30 or 31.
The Spanish government has repeatedly dismissed the viability of Puigdemont taking on his old job whilst a warrant for his arrest remained in place, but the separatist figurehead has insisted it would be possible for him to fulfill his duties using video technology.