Hopes of end to Catalan impasse as Puigdemont anoints new successor

  11 May 2018    Read: 1402
Hopes of end to Catalan impasse as Puigdemont anoints new successor

The deposed Catalan president Carles Puigdemont has anointed a new candidate as his successor, raising hopes that the region could have a government as early as next week after five months of legal and political impasse.

Quim Torra, a close ally and former leader of the pro-independence grassroots group Òmnium Cultural, was announced by Puigdemont on Thursday night.

Catalonia has been without a government since the regional election in December, which was called by the Spanish government after it sacked Puigdemont’s administration in response to its independence referendum and subsequent unilateral declaration of independence.

However, the move backfired after the three secessionist parties held on to their parliamentary majority.

Attempts to form a new government have so far come to nothing. Puigdemont remains in self-imposed exile, facing possible extradition in Spain over his role in the push for independence, while two other presidential candidates – Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Turull – are still on remand.

Although Torra faces no such legal barriers, Puigdemont acknowledged that his latest candidate would not have an easy ride.

“We have the opportunity to use the [referendum] mandate and build the country of freedoms and rights that millions of people are demanding,” he tweeted on Thursday night, adding: “I personally understand the effort and sacrifice of taking office in such extreme circumstances.”

The first investiture debate will be held at noon on Saturday. However, as Torra does not have the necessary support to win an absolute majority in the subsequent vote, there will be a second debate on Monday, which requires only a simple majority for victory.

Torra said he was honoured by Puigdemont’s confidence, referring to him as “the legitimate president of Catalonia”.

His anointment was swiftly dismissed by unionist parties in Catalonia. The centre-right Citizens party, which took the largest share of the vote in the December election, described Torra as Puigdemont’s puppet and pointed out that he had written a string of controversial tweets six years ago.

Among them were: “Spaniards know only how to plunder”; “It’s been quite a while since Spaniards removed the word shame from the dictionary”, and “We’ve been living under Spanish occupation since 1714”.

The Catalan Socialist party said it would not support Torra, whom it described as one of “the most sectarian” voices in the pro-independence bloc.

Ada Colau, the mayor of Barcelona, called on Torra to apologise for his anti-Spanish remarks. “Perhaps Quim Torra is Puigdemont’s most faithful candidate, but Catalonia needs a president with a capacity for dialogue and reconciling the country,” she tweeted on Thursday.

If Torra did attend parliament to be invested, she added, he ought to begin by saying sorry for his “ethnicist” comments that were offensive to millions of Catalans.

The region will have to return to the polls in July if a government is not in place by 22 May.


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