Puigdemont abandons presidency bid
The self-exiled former leader of Catalonia has dropped his bid to return to the presidency of the breakaway Spanish region.
Carles Puigdemont, 55, from Brussels where he fled to avoid arrest in Spain, posted a video message urging the Catalan parliament to choose pro-independence ally Jordi Sanchez as the new regional president.
But Sanchez, 53, of the Catalan National Assembly, a grassroots movement advocating independence, is in jail in Madrid while prosecutors decide whether to formally charge him with sedition and rebellion. Puigdemont faces the same charges.
On the Twitter account run in his name while he is in jail, Sanchez posted: “It is a great honour and enormous responsibility to be able to represent the people of Catalonia.”
Madrid has rejected Sanchez’s candidacy, with Justice Minister Rafael Catala saying it was “difficult” to contemplate a president of one of Spain’s regions being in jail and thus unable to carry out his duties.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said yesterday (Thursday) that a Catalan leader “must be chosen now who is in Spain, who is not in jail and who has no problems with the law”.
Pro-independence MPs won a slim majority in the emergency December 21 parliamentary election in Catalonia.
Yesterday, the Catalan parliament voted to support Puigdemont and reaffirm the validity of the referendum in a tense first session of the parliament since the December election.
The proposal by Puigdemont’s party, Junts Per Catalunya, recognised the legitimacy of Puigdemont as regional president while stressing the importance of forming an effective administration.
“The honourable President Puigdemont has won enough support at the ballot box to be allowed to be voted in as president,” said Quim Torra of Junts per Catalunya.
The proposal failed to explain how the region could move forward from a political deadlock that has prevented the naming of a leader since December’s regional election returned a majority for parties favouring a break from Spain.
“This session has served to show there is no road map or design for the future for the Catalan people,” said Ines Arrimadas, leader of the Ciudadanos party in Catalonia. Her party won the most seats in December but not enough to form a government.
Puigdemont defied the warning from Madrid and, after the divisive October 1 referendum, declared independence for Catalonia, leading to police violence and a takeover of Catalonia by the central government.
Catalonia has been ruled directly from Madrid since late October.
Violence during the October 1 referendum. Picture credit: Wikimedia