Catalonia faces fresh crisis as Parliament insists on reinstating Carles Puigdemont

Carles Puigdemont has been living in exile since declaring independence in October

Carles Puigdemont has been living in exile since declaring independence in October

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

A fresh stand-off looms in Catalonia after the regional parliament insisted that separatist figurehead Carles Puigdemont be reinstated as leader.

Puigdemont has been living in self-imposed exile in Belgium since he declared independence in late October, following an illegal referendum earlier in the month. Spain's Constitutional Tribunal, backed by the national government in Madrid, has said he cannot be recalled as head of the Catalan government.

However emergency elections convened by the Spanish government produced a fresh parliamentary majority in favour of independence last month, and secessionist leaders say they want Puigdemont to return as he is the choice of the people.

Roger Torrent, the newly elected parliamentary speaker, said this morning (January 30) that he will not propose any other candidate as President of Catalonia's Generalitat and defended the "legitimacy" of Puigdemont to return to the region's highest political office.

Attacking those who want to block Puigdemont's reinstatement, he added "Neither the vice-president Soraya Saenz de Santamaria nor the Constitutional Tribunal will decide who will be the president of the Generalitat of Catalonia. This duty falls to the parliamentary deputies who have been democratically elected."

National leader Mariano Rajoy has described Puigdemont, who faces an arrest warrant in Spain, as a "fugitive" and said the independence parties would be "driving a coach and horses" through the Constitutional Tribunal's resolution by reappointing him leader.

Rajoy - who imposed emergency powers on Catalonia in the wake of the illegal referendum on October 1 - also warned that Puigdemont is "creating a big problem for everybody, even the independence parties themselves."

The loyalist Ciudadanos party is actually the largest in the Catalan parliament, having won the most seats in the recent elections. However it is capable of neither forming a majority on its own nor organising a sustainable coalition.

The independence parties can form a coalition with a slim majority, but if they insist on Puigdemont's reinstatement, it raises the prospect of deadlock and fresh elections.