Catalan parliament speaker opposes new elections

AFP , Wednesday 18 Apr 2018

The speaker of the Catalan parliament said Wednesday that new elections were not in the region's "interest" while Spain persists in blocking a new president from taking office.

Separatist politician Roger Torrent speaking to reporters in Geneva, added that the best candidate for the job is Carles Puigdemont, the former regional president, who is in self-imposed exile.

"The scenario of elections is a scenario that, in my opinion, is not at all in the interest of Catalonia," Torrent said, after discussing the Catalan situation with a senior official at the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights.

Catalonia has been in political limbo since Spain's conservative central government imposed direct rule on the region after it unilaterally declared independence in October.

Separatist parties claimed the most seats in regional elections in December but the Catalan parliament has not sworn in a new regional president, with the three nominated candidates all facing rebellion charges.

"I think that this question should be put to the Spanish government and to the courts: How long will they continue to block (Catalonia's president) from taking office?" Torrent said.

"It is the Spanish government and the institutions of the state, and in particular the courts, that are blocking the swearing-in from happening," he said.

Fresh regional elections will be triggered if a new leader is not in place by May 22.


Torrent said it was "normal" that Puigdemont, who is currently in Germany fighting extradition back to Spain, should stand as Catalan president.

"Mr Puigdemont is the legitimate president of Catalonia," Torrent said in an interview with AFP.

"That's why it is normal for him to present his candidacy for the presidency," Torrent added.

However, Torrent stressed that it was not his job to propose candidates as that is the prerogative of Catalan's parliamentary majority.

The current nominee, separatist leader Jordi Sanchez, is in prison.

Puigdemont, the first choice for the job, went into self-imposed exile after the independence bid.

Jordi Turull, the former regional government spokesman who was also nominated for the presidency, is also in jail.

The Spanish government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy argues that the separatists are themselves to blame for the delay in naming a new Catalan president, by their failure to put up a candidate who is not embroiled in judicial problems.

Torrent meanwhile said he was "satisfied" with his UN meeting.

"There is a common concern about the threats to fundamental democratic rights, and, at the same time, there is a shared consensus about the need to find the means to find a political resolution to this conflict," he said.

UN rights office spokeswoman Ravina Shamdashani confirmed the meeting but provided no details.

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