Speaking at the headquarters of his centre-right People’s Party (PP), Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy labelled the possibility of Catalonia’s parliament being run by a government-in-exile as “absurd” and added that Madrid will retain direct rule over the autonomous region if pro-independence Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont is elected president by the new parliament.
Rajoy’s statement came on the heels of an announcement by separatists in Catalonia that Puigdemont – who is currently living in self-imposed exile in Brussels – is their candidate to again lead the Catalan government.
“It’s absurd that someone aspires to be president of the Catalan regional government while he’s living as a fugitive in Brussels – it’s a case of common sense,” said Rajoy.
He also added that if Puigdemont were re-elected, constitutional powers invoked by the government to impose direct rule on the region after an illegal referendum was held on October 27 would remain in place.
“I think that an initiative to proceed with Puigdemont’s candidacy for the presidency goes against the rules of the Catalan parliament. This is not a problem that has anything to do with the election of a new leader, but being a real physically present leader who will be able to be a president,” said Javi Lopez, a MEP and member of the the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats said.
The separatists’ long campaign to declare Catalonia independent from Madrid was boosted on December 21, when the pro-independence CUP (Popular Unity), ERC (Catalan Republican Left) and Puigdemont’s JxCat (Together for Catalonia) won 70 seats in the 135-seat Catalan parliament – just two fewer than their previous total.
Their attempts to bring Puigdemont back as Catalonia’’s leader may face a serious challenge after a report issued Monday by the Catalan’s parliament advisory body.
In its non-binding document, a group of lawyers said that regional parliamentary rules allowed a president to be appointed without their presence only in the event of “hospitalization, serious illness or an extended disability” and any other reason would require a change to the parliament’s by laws.