Catalan president to call snap elections

His decision was triggered by bitter political differences between his two main Catalan separatist political allies, EURACTIV’s partner EFE reported. [EPA/QUIQUE GARCIA]

Quim Torra, the Separatist president of the Catalan regional government (the “Generalitat”), announced plans on Tuesday (28 January) to call snap parliamentary elections soon in the prosperous Spanish northeast region.

Torra’s decision was prompted by continued bickering between his two main Catalan separatist allies, EURACTIV’s partner EFE reports.

In a live speech on Tuesday, Torra said the current Catalan legislature “no longer has a political direction” due to “the lack of loyalty” of separatist party Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC), which until now was one of his closest political allies.

“No government can work without unity, without a joint and shared strategy, without loyalty between its members,” Torra said.

Catalan elections in two or three months?

Torra’s decision came after the ERC de facto accepted a recent ruling from Spain’s Central Election Board to withdraw the Catalan president’s accreditation as MP.

According to Torra, the court’s ruling also “leaves the door open” to strip him of his presidential status, he said on Tuesday.

Fresh elections now seem the only way forward. But Torra decided to postpone a decision on a specific date for snap elections, until the approval of Catalonia’s regional budget for 2020, which is likely to be adopted in two or three months, EFE reported.

A deep crisis broke out on Monday between the two main separatist partners of the Catalan government – JuntsxCat (JuntsPerCat, Together for Catalonia) and ERC. The dispute focused on the withdrawal of Torra’s legal status as Catalan regional president.

PM Sánchez’s future relies on ERC’s Catalan separatists

Torra took over as regional president in May 2018, but fierce disputes almost immediately broke out between JxC and ERC because of their different visions about how to proceed with their separatist ambitions. The region’s political future was to be fleshed out in upcoming negotiations with the Spanish coalition executive, forged by the Spanish socialist party PSOE and leftists Podemos.

Spain’s socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and his leftist coalition relies on the vital support of Catalan separatist parties, mainly the ERC.

Last November, Torra went on trial for disobedience, after he refused to remove the  Catalan regional flag and other pro-independence symbols from the seat of the Generalitat and other Catalan public buildings in Barcelona.

After he was convicted, the court decided to ban him from holding his public position as regional president for 18 months.   

Torra appealed the ruling, but the Electoral Commission ordered him to implement the suspension at once.

Although JxC decided to ignore the Court’s ruling, ERC refused to do the same. In ERC’s view, this would mean the paralysis of the Catalan regional parliament, rendering all decisions void.

On Tuesday, analysts predicted Torra’s unilateral decision could further exacerbate the already extremely volatile Spanish political situation. Torra’s term was due to end in 2021, but now the Catalan government coalition looks more than ever on the brink of collapse.

[Edited by Frédéric Simon]

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