It took barely three minutes on Thursday for Quim Torra to be sworn in as the new regional premier of Catalonia, in a ceremony that was the most minimalist of its kind in living memory to take place inside the Palau de la Generalitat parliament building.
Torra – a controversial candidate for the role – was sworn in without making any reference to the Spanish Constitution and the king of Spain, and simply promised to be “faithful to the people of Catalonia.”
Torra is a hardline separatist, who has promised to continue down the road of unilateral secession for the region. He was voted in as premier on Monday in a 66-to-65 vote in the Catalan parliament, after being nominated by Carles Puigdemont, who is in Germany fighting extradition to Spain to be tried for rebellion and misuse of funds in connection with his unilateral independence drive last year. Spanish prosecutors are considering legal action against Torra for alleged hate speech against Spaniards in a series of tweets and articles.
At Thursday’s ceremony, Torra was accompanied by his family, and the only symbols on display were a senyera, the flag of the region, and the medallion that identifies the regional premier, which the politician did not wear but was on the table. Torra was also wearing a yellow ribbon – a symbol of protest against the ongoing incarceration of the politicians being investigated for their role in last year’s independence drive.
No representatives from the Spanish central government were in attendance at the act, in protest at the format.
“I promise to loyally meet the obligations of the role of president of the Generalitat [regional government], in faithfulness to the will of the people of Catalonia, represented in the parliament,” Torra swore before the secretary of the Generalitat, Víctor Cullel. The text was similar to that used by Puigdemont in 2016 when sworn in, given that it failed to mention either the Spanish Constitution or King Felipe VI. Spain’s justice system subsequently ruled that there was no specific format that such a ceremony should follow. As today, there was no Spanish flag present at the 2016 swearing-in either.
The central government did, however, send representatives when Puigdemont was sworn in, in contrast to Thursday. In that case, the then-interior minister, Jorge Fernández, and the former government delegate, María de los Llanos de Luna, were present.
The disapproval of the central government is based on the form of today’s ceremony. Madrid – which remains in charge of the region’s autonomous powers, after Article 155 of the Constitution was evoked in the wake of the unilateral declaration of independence – and Torra’s team spent days negotiating the form the ceremony should take, but did not reach agreement. Sources from the central government said that the format chosen “degrades the dignity of the institution itself.”
Unlike previous such sessions, to which a large number of guests and media are usually invited, Thursday’s event was almost intimate, with all of the usual details minimized – former regional premiers, for example, were not present, nor were the heads of other parliamentary groups.
Sources close to Torra stated that the frugality of today’s event was due to respect for the current time of “political exceptionality and respect for the political prisoners,” in reference to the Catalan politicians being held in pre-trial detention.
The leader of Spain’s main opposition Socialist Party (PSOE), Pedro Sánchez, today called for such swearing in ceremonies to be regularized, so that it would be obligatory for politicians to “comply with the Constitution and to respect the head of state and the monarchy.”