Spanish PM calls for Catalan lawmakers to pick a ‘clean’ candidate.
The Catalan parliament on Tuesday postponed a session in which Carles Puigdemont was due to be reelected as regional president.
The speaker of the chamber, Roger Torrent, told the press of the decision but added that he wouldn’t be proposing any other candidate and stressed that the adjournment was temporary.
Puigdemont has spent most of the past three months in Belgium and faces arrest on charges of rebellion, sedition, and misuse of public funds if he returns to Spain.
On Saturday, the country’s Constitutional Court banned the election of Puigdemont under current circumstances — warning Torrent that he could face criminal charges if the election went ahead.
Torrent said he would ask the regional parliament’s lawyers to file an appeal against the decision of the court.
While he avoided an immediate legal clash, Torrent said neither the Spanish government nor the Constitutional Court “will decide who will become president of Catalonia,” adding that the parliamentary session had been “postponed, but by no means canceled.”
Earlier Tuesday morning, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said in a TV interview that he wanted the Catalan parliament to respect the law and propose a “clean candidate” to be regional president.
Rajoy said his Cabinet wanted to prevent a fugitive candidate ruling the region from Brussels, adding that Puigdemont was creating “a grave problem for everyone … including independence supporters.”
Torrent’s decision immediately led to tensions among the three pro-independence political parties. By noon, Puigdemont’s supporters and the radical-left CUP were starting to show signs of discomfort.
While the official position of the independence camp is to back Puigdemont as a candidate, politicians in the two leading separatist parties have suggested that an alternative candidate be considered given Puigdemont’s legal problems.
Joan Tardà, a lawmaker for Torrent’s Catalan Republican Left, was blunt in an interview with newspaper La Vanguardia published on Sunday, saying the separatists should sacrifice Puigdemont if needed.
Spanish government officials said the only two potential outcomes of the deadlock are new regional elections or the Catalan separatists agreeing on a new candidate who is neither a fugitive nor in jail.
The outcome may depend on whether Puigdemont is willing to step aside. His electoral list came in first among the three secessionist forces in regional elections on December 21, where the separatists obtained 70 seats in the 135-seat chamber and around 47 percent of the vote.