VIDEO - The deposed president of the Catalan government won an election victory in the regional elections on Thursday, leading the way for separatists, but there are many questions about his future in Spain, while he is in exile in Belgium, and the possibilities of form a government.
Victorious, but in Belgium. Here is summarized the situation of Carles Puigdemont, the deposed Catalan president whose party scored a similar score to that of 2015 in early regional elections on Thursday, just ensuring a majority of seats in Parliament for the independence bloc. Several questions now arise for the pro-independence leader and his future in the Catalan government.
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• A return to Catalonia?
Spain withdrew, at the beginning of the month, the European arrest warrant against Carles Puigdemont. But the deposed president is still subject to an arrest warrant in Spain for his role in organizing the referendum of independence declared illegal and for leading the process of secession. Indicted for "rebellion" and "sedition", he risks being arrested the minute he sets foot on Spanish soil. The hypothesis of a return to Spain therefore remains very uncertain at the moment.
Carles Puigdemont had declared December 12 that he would return to Spain if he could be invested president. In principle, there is nothing to prevent the pursuit of a political leader, since he is not convicted. But still, he must remain free. And in his entourage, it was hinted, before the poll, that it should be "allowed to return," says AFP. In other words, there is no arrest at the key. He "can then begin a negotiation".
At a press conference in Brussels on Friday morning, Carles Puigdemont reaffirmed his willingness to discuss with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. He offered to meet him outside Spain. "I am ready to meet Mr Rajoy in Brussels or any other place in the European Union that is not the Spanish state for obvious reasons," he told the press.
Mariano Rajoy rejected this request. "The person with whom I should sit is the one who won the elections, Mrs. Arrimadas," the head of the list of the anti-independence party Ciudadanos, the top poll.
• Which government?
Negotiations for the formation of the Catalan regional government are expected to begin after the end of year celebrations on 6 January, Reuters said. At the same time, the Spanish Prime Minister, the Conservative Mariano Rajoy, will announce the date of the beginning of the procedure of the Regional Parliament for its first meeting. This process can take place no later than January 23rd.
The composition of a government promises to be complicated for separatists too. Seven of the 70 elected separatists are in prison or in exile. They are also accused of rebellion and sedition. Unless they are released or return home, they will be unable to vote in the Catalan Parliament to form a functioning majority.
They could hope to be released or no longer be subject to an arrest warrant on one condition: to undertake not to seek independence unilaterally. But, this decision could call into question the support for a Puigdemont government of the most fiercely independentist party, the Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP, radical left). Another possibility for leaders in exile or in prison: give up their seat that would go to the next on the list.
• A risk of failure?
At the end of this process, Parliament will have until February 8 to endorse a new government. In the meantime, Carles Puigdemont will have to have indicated if he presents himself to the presidency of Catalonia.
In the event that negotiations do not permit the formation of a majority government, the complexities will continue. A second vote will be organized, in which a simple majority of voters will suffice. If this proves impossible, the discussions can continue for another two months. In case of failure, the Parliament will be dissolved and new elections will be organized.
Not to mention that Thursday's result does not settle the battle between pro and anti-independence, while the anti-independence party Ciudadanos came first. "With this result, the message to Spain is: sit down to talk," said AFP a separatist sympathizer in Barcelona, after the announcement of the results.
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