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Catalan party’s decision to abstain prevents appointment of new premier

Small radical CUP group withholds its four votes at the investiture session that was meant to vote in the separatist candidate Jordi Turull

Catalan regional deputy Jordi Turull looks from his seat at the start of his investiture session.
Catalan regional deputy Jordi Turull looks from his seat at the start of his investiture session. REUTERS

In a new chapter in the ongoing political crisis in Catalonia, a small but pivotal party on Thursday made a last-minute decision to withhold its support for Jordi Turull, the separatist bloc’s candidate to become the new Catalan premier.

At an investiture session that lasted more than five hours, Turull – a former chief of staff and spokesman in the government of ousted premier Carles Puigdemont – secured 64 votes from his own Together for Catalonia (JxCat) party and the Catalan Republican Left (ERC), against 65 negative votes from the pro-unity Ciudadanos, Catalan Socialists (PSC), Catalunya en Comú-Podem and the Catalan branch of the conservative Popular Party (PPC).

We continue to insist, it’s not the who that matters, it’s the what. We are here to make a Republic

CUP statement

The four deputies for the anti-establishment CUP, which wants a complete and immediate break with Spain for Catalonia, abstained at the vote, thus depriving Turull of the absolute majority that would have made him the new government leader on Thursday.

The group cited concerns that Turull’s party and the ERC are not sufficiently committed to the project of creating an independent republic of Catalonia, and that they instead seem to be pushing for greater self-rule within Spain.

“The governing program proposed by Junts per Catalunya (JxCat) and the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) does not make any progress in the construction of either republican or social measures that address the rights and needs of the working class and other popular classes,” said the CUP in a release ahead of the vote inside the Catalan parliament on Thursday. “We continue to insist, it’s not the who that matters, it’s the what. We are here to make a republic.”

Jordi Turull addressing the Catalan parliament on Thursday.
Jordi Turull addressing the Catalan parliament on Thursday. EFE

Carles Riera, CUP’s spokesman, also announced that they are through with their alliances with JxCat and ERC. “We will humbly go sit with the opposition. But don’t ask us to be accomplices to a regionalist policy,” he said.

Turull’s defeat on Thursday puts him in a delicate position. Today he – and 27 other individuals under investigation over the failed independence bid – is scheduled to appear before the Supreme Court, which is ready to present formal charges. If Judge Pablo Llarena decides to place Turull in pre-trial detention, it will end his chances of being invested in office, as he will no longer be able to attend the run-off that should be held on Saturday, 48 hours after the first vote, as required by parliamentary by-laws.

The investiture debate – the third to be scheduled since the December 21 elections, following the failed nominations of ousted premier Carles Puigdemont and grassroots activist Jordi Sànchez – had been hastily scheduled precisely to forestall such a move by the Supreme Court. But the CUP’s abstention now leaves all avenues open.

The fact that a session was held also means that a two-month countdown begins to appoint a new leader or call fresh elections in the region.

In his own address to parliament, which lasted nearly one hour, Turull avoided mentioning the terms “independence,” “republic,” “self-determination,” “democratic legitimacy,” “constituent process” or “right to decide” – all expressions that he and other separatist leaders had widely used in recent months.

A two-month countdown begins to appoint a new leader or call fresh elections

Instead, he supported the restoration of self-rule, which was placed on hold in late October when the separatist majority in the Catalan parliament made a unilateral declaration of independence and Madrid invoked special powers under Article 155 of the Constitution.

“It is urgent [for central authorities] to accept the mandate that emerged from the December 21 elections and restore our institutions following the state repression,” he said.

Turull also made an offer for dialogue with an “extended hand” to the heads of state and government. “We are not working against anybody or anything, we are merely exercising our freedom because we are thirsty for justice and freedom. We can tell the difference between the Spanish people and their leaders. We don’t hold a grudge.”

He then listed the measures that a Turull administration would push for, including the need to end “the fiscal pillaging that Catalonia is enduring.”

Deputies give up seats

Carme Forcadell, Dolors Bassa and Raul Romeva arrive at the Supreme Court in Madrid on Friday.
Carme Forcadell, Dolors Bassa and Raul Romeva arrive at the Supreme Court in Madrid on Friday. ©GTRESONLINE

Angels Piñols

Three secessionist leaders have given up their seats in the regional parliament ahead of their Friday hearing before the Spanish Supreme Court, which is investigating them in connection with the failed independence bid.

Former parliament speaker Carme Forcadell, ERC secretary general Marta Rovira and former regional labor department chief Dolors Bassa announced their decision on Thursday, right after the failed investiture bid by Jordi Turull.

In a release, the ERC – whose own leader, Oriol Junqueras, is in pre-trial confinement since early November – attacked “the State’s reiterated attempts at conditioning the democratic activities of the [Catalan] parliament.”

English version by Susana Urra.

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