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Preventing Puigdemont’s return as premier

The central government in Madrid must explore all means at its disposal to stop the politician from being voted back into power

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. Getty Images

The new speaker of the Catalan parliament, Roger Torrent, has proposed a motion for ousted Catalan premier Carles Puigdemont – who fled to Brussels last October in a bid to avoid arrest – to stand once more as candidate for the same position. The central government in Madrid, however, has expressed its intention to dispute that candidacy at the Constitutional Court. The highest consultative body under Spanish law, the State Council, meanwhile, has issued a non-binding judgment that such a dispute does not have sufficient basis.

The government must exhaust all political and legal means within its reach in order to avoid this investiture

For the government, whose mission is to protect the general interest, impeding the investiture of Puigdemont as regional premier is not just a politically desirable and legally legitimate objective, but also an inexcusable obligation that, under no circumstance, it can renounce. To achieve this aim, the government has before it a wide range of legal and political instruments. Such actions, as is normal in a democracy and a state with rule of law, are subject to both political and judicial review.

The former premier – who has fled Spain leaving several of his former parliamentary colleagues behind bars – is not just facing trial for the serious charges of rebellion and sedition. His unwillingness to respect the law, his repeated disobedience of the Constitutional Court, and his refusal to dissolve parliament last year and call regional elections are the sole reasons for the government’s application of Article 155 of the Constitution, which allowed it to take control of the Catalonia region and call the December 21 elections.

It is hugely unfortunate that neither the speaker of the house nor the parliamentary groups who are promoting Puigdemont’s candidacy as premier are conscious of the damage that his investiture would have on the region’s self-government and social harmony. Their persistence in defying the state reveals their inability to listen to the demands of a fractured and exhausted society.

The Spanish government, in the name of democracy and the Constitution, and in representation of the people, must exhaust all political and legal means within its reach in order to avoid an investiture that would see the institutions of self-government in the region facing a new conflict with the state. This is how the rule of law works: the State Council, the Constitutional Court and the central government must all fulfil their roles.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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