The new Catalan parliament meets for the first time today with an unusual dilemma: how can the government function with three newly elected deputies in pre-trial detention in Madrid and five others in exile in Brussels?
An election on 21 December yielded a majority of seats for Catalan separatist parties, but the man most likely to lead the new government, Carles Puigdemont, will be arrested if he returns to the region. Separatist leaders have agreed to reinstate Puigdemont as president of the region and for him to rule remotely, via Skype, Facebook and social media if need be, earning him the nickname the “hologram president”, says the BBC.
But Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is threatening to extend direct rule on Catalonia if Puigdemont tries to govern the region from Belgium, The Times reports.
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“This aspiration is a fallacy, it’s totally unrealistic and it goes against the rule books and common sense,” Rajoy said, according to Reuters.
With limited options, Madrid and Catalan leaders appear to be heading for another showdown.
“One of the key events to look out for today is whether the Mesa de Edad, a transitional committee presided by a veteran lawmaker, will greenlight a request by some of the absent deputies (those in remand or in Brussels) to vote by proxy in a pivotal vote to appoint the Mesa del Parlament, the permanent board of officials that sets the chamber’s agenda,” says Spanish newspaper El Pais.
The Catalan board of seven MPs has two weeks to nominate its president, the BBC adds, but that is just one of many problems still to be resolved. Puigdemont still faces charges of sedition, rebellion, and misuse of public funds, and may face jail time if he returns to Spanish territory.
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