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Spain bans Puigdemont from EU vote

April 30, 2019

Catalonia separatist Carles Puigdemont, who fled Spain after a 2017 secession attempt, has been banned from standing in the EU elections. He and two colleagues had wanted to advance the case for Catalan independence.

Carles Puigdemont speaks during a press conference in Brussels
Image: Getty Images/AFP/T. Roge

Spanish election authorities have banned the Catalan former President Carles Puigdemont from running as a candidate for the European Parliament.

Puigdemont and two former colleagues in the regional government had wanted to highlight the cause of Catalan independence on an international stage, after secessionist efforts were swiftly quashed by Madrid in 2017.

Clara Ponsati and Toni Comin, who both served as ministers under Puigdemont and who also left Spain in 2017, were also prevented from standing.

Spain's central electoral commission, the JEC, ruled Monday that the three candidates were not eligible to run as candidates given that they were not registered as Spaniards living abroad, but that they were outside their own country "to escape the process of justice."

The three have denounced the ruling as a "flagrant violation of their rights," claiming that it was proof of collusion between the judiciary and "certain political interests."

Puigdemont's Junts per Catalunya party (Together for Catalonia) accused electoral bosses of wanting to "silence and push aside" Puigdemont "so that he can't explain what he represents at the heart of European institutions."

Read more: How fair are the trials of Catalan pro-independence politicians?

The decision by Spain's central electoral commission, the JEC, was not unanimous. The commission president, vice president and two other members together issued a separate decision that the three banned politicians should not necessarily be ineligible on the grounds of "criminal rebellion."

Independence push

All three of the banned politicians were part of the push to hold an independence referendum in October 2017, which Spain declared invalid. The referendum in the wealthy northeastern region — which the secessionists won with a small margin — was followed by a short-lived declaration of independence.

After then-Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy responded by imposing direct rule on Catalonia from Madrid, Puigdemont fled to Belgium. He faces arrest if he returns to Spain, with numerous other colleagues who stayed in Spain currently in prison.

Moderate Catalan separatists were big regional winners in Spain's general election on Sunday, which saw the Socialist PSOE emerge as the biggest single party.

Banned from Canada

It also emerged on Monday that Puigdemont had been barred from entering Canada a month earlier, after he was invited to visit by a Quebec separatist group.

The move to ban him from Canada was denounced as "shameful" by the Saint-Jean-Baptiste Society, a group that promotes Quebec independence. It had invited him to tour the largely French-speaking province.

Read more: Far-right gains in Spanish polls are not Franco nostalgia: analyst

Puigdemont had been due to land in Montreal on April 2, but he was told by email several days earlier that his electronic authorization to enter had been revoked.

A Canadian government official said politics played no part in the decision and declined to comment on the individual case, citing privacy laws.

rc/cmk (AFP, EFE, dpa)

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