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In sudden move, Catalan parliament could swear in new premier today

Separatist bloc agrees to nominate Jordi Turull before potential Supreme Court action against him

Jordi Turul is set to be sworn in as the next Catalan premier.
Jordi Turul is set to be sworn in as the next Catalan premier. REUTERS
Madrid / Barcelona

In a sudden move aimed at forestalling potentially adverse measures by the Spanish courts, the speaker of the Catalan parliament has announced that the session to vote in a new regional premier will take place today at 5pm, rather than some time next week as had been widely expected.

Speaker Roger Torrent had been planning to open a new round of talks with parties today in a bid to find a new government leader after two failed nominations by ousted premier Carles Puigdemont and grassroots activist Jordi Sànchez. Jordi Turull, a former government spokesman in the Puigdemont administration, was considered to be the most likely new candidate.

But the Supreme Court yesterday announced a Friday hearing for 28 people who are under investigation for sedition and rebellion in connection with the failed independence bid. Judge Pablo Llarena has summoned their lawyers to a 10.30am hearing on Friday to present formal charges against their clients.

The Supreme Court announced a hearing for 28 people who are under investigation for sedition and rebellion in connection with the failed independence bid

On Friday, the judge will also review the current precautionary measures against six secessionist leaders, including Turull, who was released on bail in December but could potentially have this measure revoked tomorrow. If Turull is taken into pre-trial custody, it will end his chances of becoming the next Catalan premier.

Faced with the possibility of a third separatist candidate who is unable to attend the investiture session in the Catalan parliament – and thus legally unable to become the next head of government – separatist parties on Wednesday afternoon scrambled to come up with a new plan. By 10pm, speaker Torrent was announcing that the session will be held this afternoon.

In a Thursday morning interview on Catalunya Ràdio, Torrent downplayed the situation, calling the investiture debate “absolutely normal.”

Although the anti-capitalist CUP party had said that its four deputies would not vote for Turull, as they consider him insufficiently committed to a complete break with Spain, late on Wednesday this attitude appeared to have changed.

Their support is necessary to ensure victory by Turull, a historical member of the now-defunct Convergència party (now known as PDeCAT) whom the pro-unity parties have criticized for his one-time defense of government officials involved in a far-reaching corruption scandal, the Palau case.

Secessionists secured 70 out of the 135 seats at the December 21 election, but two are held by Carles Puigdemont and former Cabinet member Toni Comín, who also fled to Belgium and cannot cast a ballot or delegate their votes. So far, both have refused to give up their seats to another party member. This leaves the separatists with 68 effective votes against 65 for the “constitutionalist” parties.

If Turull gets voted in, his term could be a short one. If the Supreme Court formally charges him with rebellion and puts him in pre-trial detention, Turull will be suspended. And if he does not go to jail, he will still be facing trial in the fall, and a ban from holding public office if found guilty.

Nobody would understand it if the King did not sign the investiture of the ‘president’ that is elected by the Parliament

Roger Torrent

A successful bid by Turull would also put King Felipe VI in the bind of having to sign off on the premiership of a man considered to be one of the masterminds of the secessionist bid.

“Nobody would understand it if the King did not sign the investiture of the ‘president’ that is elected by the Parliament,” said Torrent.

The central government of Mariano Rajoy on Wednesday accused Torrent of undermining the dignity of the Catalan parliament through opaque moves, and warned that Article 155 of the Constitution – which imposed direct rule on Catalonia – will remain in place so long as a legal government is not appointed in the region.

English version by Susana Urra.

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