“I will not propose any candidate that is not [Carles] Puigdemont,” says Roger Torrent at press conference on Tuesday morning. The speaker of the Catalan parliament, Roger Torrent, today postponed a planned plenary session of the chamber for today that was set to see deputies debate and vote on the investiture of ousted Catalan premier Carles Puigdemont.
Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday morning, Torrent stated that the session “is not going to be called off, but it is going to be delayed.” He did not set a new date for the vote. Since fleeing to Brussels in the wake of last year’s independence declaration, which was passed by the Catalan parliament, Puigdemont has been wanted for arrest by the Spanish authorities. He is likely to be detained should he set foot back on Spanish soil.
The Constitutional Court ruled on Saturday that Puigdemont can only be sworn in if he seeks permission from a judge to physically attend the investiture debate, meaning the politician cannot be sworn in remotely or by delegating his vote. Spanish government sources told EL PAÍS that the court’s decision helped avoid a “mockery of our democracy,” by pushing Torrent to postpone the session. “The pro-independence forces know that they are obliged to obey the law like the rest of our citizens. The government will continue to defend the law and the institutions at all times.”
The central government’s delegate in Catalonia, Enric Millo, said that he believes that the Catalan parliament speaker has obeyed the Constitutional Court ruling, in spite of making what he described as a statement “disguised as disobedience,” adding that the central government in Madrid and the Constitutional Court “have never tried” to choose the regional premier. At the press conference, Torrent promised to support Puigdemont – despite the legal implications. “I am not going to propose any other candidate who is not Puigdemont,” he said. “Premier Puigdemont has every right to be voted in.”
Torrent added that he would pursue legal avenues to allow the ousted premier to safely return to Spain: “I have committed to guaranteeing his immunity. I have called on the Chamber’s legal counsel to appear and formulate arguments,” he said. Puigdemont’s party Junts per Catalunya (Together for Catalonia) said that Torrent had not consulted the party before announcing his decision to suspend the session. Three Catalan deputies who fled to Belgium with Puigdemont – Lluís Puig, Clara Ponsatí and Meritxell Serret – gave up their seats to other party members on Sunday to ensure that separatists in the Catalan parliament retain the required 68 votes. Meanwhile, Miquel Vall, president of the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce, warned that the political crisis in Catalonia is continuing to hurt the regional economy. “The uncertainty is constant, it shifts but it never disappears and this affects the entire political and economic context.”