Spain to challenge Puigdemont′s nomination as Catalan leader | News | DW | 25.01.2018
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Spain to challenge Puigdemont's nomination as Catalan leader

Spain's government has asked an advisory body about the feasability of appealing Carles Puigdemont's regional presidential nomination. If it is possible, the government plans to file an appeal at Spain's top court.

Spain on Thursday said it planned to challenge ousted former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont's nomination to lead the new Catalan parliament at the Spanish Constitutional Court.

Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said that the outstanding warrant for Puigdemont's arrest meant that he could not take up the public office.

Read more: Opinion: After Catalan elections, it's back to the drawing board

The background

  • Catalonia's newly-elected parliament speaker Roger Torrent on Monday nominated Puigdemont as the sole candidate to be the regional president again.
  • Puigdemont is currently in self-imposed exile in Brussels and faces charges of rebellion related to the Catalan independence referendum held in defiance of the Spanish government on October 1, 2017.
  • Madrid removed Puigdemont as the Catalan regional president after his government declared independence on October 27.
  • Several other leading Catalan politicians also face criminal charges of rebellion, sedition and misappropriation of funds.
  • A Catalan regional election was held in December to try to defuse the crisis but separatist parties won another narrow majority in the divided state.

Puigdemont 'does not enjoy full rights'

Saenz de Santamaria said the Spanish government had asked Spain's Council of State, an advisory body to the government, to provide an opinion on whether it can appeal the Catalan parliament speaker's nomination of Puigdemont to the constitutional court.

If the council's opinion matched the Madrid government's, the appeal would be filed immediately.

Read more: Carles Puigdemont: Fugitive Catalan ex-leader called to form government

"The parliament speaker has put forward as candidate someone who does not enjoy his full rights, who has no right to freedom of movement," Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said. "Mr. Torrent must have known that Mr. Puigdemont could not enter Spain without being detained."

Spain is seeking Puigdemont's arrest and therefore does not wish for him to show up in the Catalan parliament without it noticing. On Tuesday, Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido said authorities were "taking steps along the border and inside the country, everywhere, to see that that does not happen."

"We are doing it in such a way that he cannot enter [the Catalan parliament] even in the boot of a car," he told Spanish television.

Watch video 00:58

Puigdemont, Rajoy react to Catalan election results

How the Catalonia crisis unfolded: On October 1 last year, Catalonia went ahead with an independence referendum that had been declared illegal by the Spanish government and courts.

The result: While around 90 percent of participants voted for independence, the voter turnout was only 43 percent as opponents boycotted the vote. In the Catalan parliamentary vote, which passed 70 to 10, dozens of opposition lawmakers also boycotted the ballot.

Read more: Madrid orders Brussels reps to bar Puigdemont meeting

How did the Spanish government react: Madrid sacked Puigdemont, Vice President Oriol Junqueras and four other cabinet members, imposing direct Spanish control on Catalonia. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy called new elections in December but the results did not change drastically, with separatist parties maintaining a slight majority.

Read more: Carles Puigdemont can't govern Catalonia from exile, Madrid says

Why is Madrid against Catalan independence: Concerns have been raised about what Catalonia's independence would mean for Spain's already ailing economy. Catalonia is home to 7.5 million people, roughly 16 percent of Spain's total population, and generates more than one fifth of the country's GDP. According to figures from the European Commission, Catalonia's exports account for 20 percent of the Spanish total. Moreover, about 25 percent of foreign investment in Spain is in Catalonia.

What happens next: Puigdemont has said he could be sworn in remotely from Brussels, which Spain's central government is against. On Wednesday, he said he should be present at the parliamentary session due next week where lawmakers would officially vote him in. However, Deputy Prime Minister Saenz de Santamaria said there was "an arrest warrant against Mr. Puigdemont in Spain, so the first thing he should do in Spain is go to Spanish judicial authorities."

law/msh (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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