15 January 2016

Catalonia takes steps to implement plan for secession from Spain

BARCELONA – The Parliament of Catalonia elected Carles Puigdemont on Sunday as its new regional president, backed by groups that support the separatist agenda, in a plenary where he made clear his determination to achieve independence for this region of Spain.

Puigdemont was elected with an absolute majority of 70 votes in favor – 62 from the coalition Junts Pel Si (JxSi) and eight from radical leftist party CUP – and 63 votes against.

Two members of the radical CUP (10 MPs) party abstained from voting.

Puigdemont’s investiture was held Sunday, two hours from the expiry of the deadline for new elections to be convened automatically, following the resignation of former regional president Artur Mas and an agreement in extremis signed Saturday between JxSi and CUP.

The Jxsi coalition, formed by heterogeneous political groups, was the most voted in regional elections but needed the votes of the CUP to push their candidate and proceed with the separatist agenda.

The government presented Sunday by Puigdemont during his investiture traces back to the one presented by Mas in a failed plenary few months ago, and provides for the creation of Catalonia’s own Treasury, a central bank of Catalonia and even its own customs.

Leader of the opposition, Citizens party’s Ines Arrimadas accused the new Catalan executive of heading an illegal project, while the Socialist Miquel Iceta lashed out at Puigdemont saying “No to independence, illegality and his investiture.”

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy responded to Puigdemont’s election with a promise to comply with his obligation to ensure the law and Constitution faced with the separatist challenge, warning, he “won’t allow a single act that could harm the unity and sovereignty of Spain.”

“We have more tools than ever to defend our unity, we, the main political forces agree on this,” said Rajoy, who received the backing of socialist opposition leader Pedro Sanchez, and Citizens party president, Albert Rivera, who heads the fourth political force in the Spanish Congress.

This new chapter has stoked the national debate over the formation of a new Spanish Executive, where the Catalan issue is one of the “red lines” for the possible pacts to form a government, in a political atmosphere marked by uncertainty and lack of parliamentary majority.