VIDEO – The president of the deposed Catalan government obtained an electoral victory in the regional elections on Thursday by coming out on top of the separatists, but many questions arise as to his future in Spain, while he is exiled in Belgium, and the possibilities of form a government.
Victorious, but in Belgium. This summarizes the situation of Carles Puigdemont, the deposed Catalan president and whose party achieved a score similar to that of 2015 in the early regional elections on Thursday, narrowly securing a majority of seats in Parliament for the independence bloc. Several questions now arise for the independence leader and his future in the Catalan government.
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• A return to Catalonia?
Spain withdrew, at the beginning of the month, the European arrest warrant which targeted Carles Puigdemont. But the deposed president is still the subject of an arrest warrant in Spain for his role in organizing the independence referendum declared illegal and for leading the secession process. Charged with "rebellion" and "sedition", he therefore risks being arrested the minute he sets foot on Spanish soil. The hypothesis of a return to Spain therefore remains very uncertain for the time being.
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Carles Puigdemont said on December 12 that he would return to Spain if he could be sworn in as president. There is nothing in principle to prevent a political leader being prosecuted from being invested, since he is not convicted. But he still has to remain free. And in his entourage, it was suggested, before the ballot, that it would be necessary "to allow him to return", specifies AFP. In other words, that there is no arrest at stake. He “can then start a negotiation”.
During a press conference in Brussels on Friday morning, Carles Puigdemont reaffirmed that he was ready to discuss with the head of the Spanish government Mariano Rajoy. He offered to meet him outside Spain. “I am ready to meet Mr. Rajoy in Brussels or in any other place in the European Union which is not the Spanish state for obvious reasons”, he assured the press.
Mariano Rajoy rejected this request. "The person I should sit with is the one who won the elections, Madame Arrimadas", the head of the list of the anti-independence Ciudadanos party, which came out ahead in the poll.
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• Which government?
Negotiations for the formation of the Catalan regional government should begin after the end of year celebrations, on January 6, specifies Reuters. At the same time, the president of the Spanish government, the conservative Mariano Rajoy, will announce the start date of the procedure of the regional parliament in view of its first session. This process can take place no later than January 23.
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The composition of a government also promises to be complicated for the separatists. Seven of the 70 elected separatists are in prison or in exile. They are also accused of rebellion and sedition. Unless released or returned home, they will find themselves unable to vote in the Catalan parliament to form a working majority.
They could hope to be freed or no longer subject to an arrest warrant on one condition: to pledge not to seek independence unilaterally. But this decision could call into question the support for a Puigdemont government of the most fiercely independentist party, the Candidature of Popular Unity (CUP, radical left). Another possibility for leaders in exile or in prison is to give up their seat, which would go to the next on the list.
• A risk of failure?
At the end of this process, Parliament will have until February 8 to endorse a new government. By then, Carles Puigdemont must have indicated whether he is running for the presidency of Catalonia.
In the event that the negotiations fail to form a government with a majority, the complexities will continue. A second vote will be held, in which a simple majority of voters will suffice. If this proves impossible, discussions may continue for another two months. If this fails, Parliament will be dissolved and new elections will be held.
Not to mention that Thursday's result does not settle the battle between pro and anti-independence, while the anti-independence party Ciudadanos came out on top. "With this result, the message to Spain is: sit down and talk," a pro-independence supporter in Barcelona told AFP after the results were announced.
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Source: © What prospects for leader Carles Puigdemont and Catalonia?