Catalan leader cannot be remotely sworn in: Spain

AP, MADRID

Wed, Jan 17, 2018 - Page 7

Former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont on Monday faced additional obstacles in his attempt to stand for his old job from his bolt-hole in Belgium.

Legal advisers told the Catalan parliament that Puigdemont cannot be sworn in unless he shows up in person in the chamber, while Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy vowed to maintain Madrid’s direct rule over Catalonia if the fugitive separatist politician tries to resume office from Brussels.

Monday’s developments complicate matters for Puigdemont, who had hoped to present his candidacy by video or through a delegate to avoid returning to Spain and being arrested.

After analyzing the law, Catalan parliament legal experts said Puigdemont cannot be sworn in as Catalan president via video link to Barcelona. One of the reasons they cited was that a candidate has to be able to debate directly with political parties, Europa Press reported.

The region’s anti-independence opposition and Rajoy’s government have said they would take the matter to the Constitutional Court if lawmakers vote for Puigdemont as regional president.

“It’s absurd that someone may intend to be a candidate to be the head of the regional government while being in Brussels and running away from justice,” Rajoy said. “This is no longer just a judicial and political problem, this a problem of pure common sense.”

The new parliament is set to meet for the first time tomorrow. An initial vote to pick Catalonia’s next president is likely to take place by the end of the month.

Much to Rajoy’s ire, secessionist parties again won the most seats in a Dec. 21 election the prime minister called under temporary takeover powers he assumed after removing Puigdemont’s government and dissolving the regional parliament following a independence referendum.

Five regional lawmakers, including Puigdemont, have fled Spain and three more, including former Catalonian vice president Oriol Junqueras, are in jail facing possible charges of rebellion or sedition.

The Catalan parliament legal experts said they can delegate their vote to another person, but not the five currently fugitive in Belgium.