Catalonia is about to install their exiled leader as president... again

The last time we checked in on the Catalonian independence movement in Spain, things were a complete mess. The snap elections that Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy had called to restore a more moderate, anti-separatist government in the region completely backfired, with the independence parties sweeping a solid majority of the seats. That leaves Rajoy with a serious problem on his hands.

But the Catalans in the independence movement have issues of their own. Eight of their newly re-elected members of Parliament are currently in jail with little to no prospects for freedom. The same may soon apply to their former president, Carles Puigdemont, who is still in exile in Belgium and facing trial and serious prison time himself if he steps foot back in Spain. So what are the independence parties going to do? The only obvious thing… they’re preparing to name Puigdemont president again, even if he has to give his acceptance speech from another country. (Boston Globe)

The main separatist parties of Catalonia have reached a preliminary agreement to reelect Carles Puigdemont as leader of the restive Spanish region, even as he remains in self-imposed exile in Belgium, the Catalan news media reported Wednesday.

The deal — reached over dinner in Brussels on Tuesday — would allow Puigdemont to deliver his acceptance speech this month either by videoconference from Belgium or by having another lawmaker read it in the Catalan Parliament on his behalf, according to the Catalan radio station Rac1 and other outlets.

In a Catalan election Dec. 21, the three main separatist parties won 70 of the 135 seats in the regional Parliament, with 47.5 percent of the vote — almost identical to the result in 2015.

Spain’s Prime Minister has already called the idea of Puigdemont ruling from outside the country “absurd” and rejected an invitation to meet with him in Belgium to discuss a solution. It sounds as if he’s determined to take a hard line here and not give the slightest signal that he’s considering granting Catalonia independence. His Attorney General is sticking to his previously announced plans to put all of the separatist leaders on trial, including Puegdemont if they can lay their hands on him.

But Rajoy’s timetable calls for the Catalonian Parliament to meet next Wednesday. The independence parties hold seventy seats (enough to form a ruling coalition), but with eight members in jail and a dozen more in Belgium, how will they hold the vote? Requests have been sent to allow all of them freedom of movement for a single day to go cast those votes, but it doesn’t sound as if Rajoy is in any mood to be conciliatory.

This messy situation is getting worse for both sides. If the Catalans can’t form a new ruling coalition, the results of the election are in turmoil. If Rajoy rejects their decision to appoint new independence leaders his only option may be to dissolve their government again. At that point, he comes off looking more like a dictator than a democratic ruler. And the harder he punishes the Catalans, the more inclined they may be toward open revolt.