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Catalonia: start of the legislature without Puigdemont

Ⓒ AFP – LLUIS GENE – | Demonstration in Barcelona for the release of imprisoned separatist deputies, 16 January 2018

Catalonia’s pro-independence parliament sits on Wednesday for the first time since its attempted break with Spain, in the absence of a main actor, Carles Puigdemont, who claims to be invested from a distance from Brussels.

Two months after the unprecedented political crisis triggered by their bid for secession, Catalan separatists managed to maintain voter confidence in the December 21 regional elections. They won 47.5% of the vote and 70 deputies out of 135.

This absolute majority of seats must allow them, in principle, to appoint a separatist president.

The natural candidate is Carles Puigdemont, dismissed by the head of government Mariano Rajoy with all of his executive on 27 October after the declaration of independence of the Catalan Parliament.

Tuesday night the two main separatist lists, that of the deposed president “Together for Catalonia” and that of the “Republican Left of Catalonia”, have announced an agreement to invest.

Ⓒ AFP/Archives – JOHN THYS – | Carles Puigdemont, January 12, 2018 in Brussels

The first has 34 seats and the second 32. With the four voices yet to be confirmed of the Popular Unity Candidature (extreme left independence), arithmetic gives them the advantage.

– Virtual Majority –

On Wednesday, the new parliament will sit from 11:00 am (10:00 GMT) and the separatists will seek during this meeting to lay the groundwork for the inauguration of Mr Puigdemont scheduled in principle at the end of the month, a course sowed with obstacles.

Ⓒ AFP/Archives – Cecilia SANCHEZ – | Elections in Catalonia: leading by constituency

Indeed, their majority is theoretical since eight of the 70 separatist deputies are in prison or abroad and can not in principle vote: three are in custody, charged with “rebellion”, “sedition” and “embezzlement”; the other five, including Carles Puigdemont, also targeted by the courts, are in Belgium.

Their first objective will be to control the parliament and the body which ensures the respect of the regulation of the room and the agenda.

It is this “office” that will accept or not, the remote voting of one or the other.

For deputies in prison, it seems possible, even if the parliamentary regulation does not provide for it, explained Tuesday a government source in Madrid. “They did not choose to go to jail and they were detained by a judge.” But this is excluded for those elected to Brussels on their own, he added.

The government also announced that it would block any attempt by Carles Puigdemont and the other four deputies in Brussels to try to act at a distance, by voting in Wednesday’s session to choose the office and the president. of the parliament, or later by opposing before the Constitutional Court the taking of office of the deposed president.

– ‘No plan B’ –

Tuesday, at a reception offered to the press at the Moncloa Palace, the seat of the government in Madrid, calculations were going well on the voices that had – or not – the separatists given their situation.

They could keep control of Parliament with 62 deputies present in the Chamber and the three elected prisoners, the opposition (liberal party Ciudadanos, Socialist Party and People’s Party of Mariano Rajoy) with only 57 deputies and eight elected Catalunya group in Comun, near Podemos, to abstain.

Still, Mariano Rajoy will not accept in any case a presidency of the region of 7.5 million inhabitants where live 16% of Spaniards … from Brussels.

“I will challenge the first administrative act”, which goes in that direction, he told reporters at Moncloa on Tuesday.

Such an appeal will entail the referral to the Constitutional Court, which will freeze the investiture and lead to a new scenario of blockage of the region, during which the government will continue to direct Catalonia deprived of the autonomy to which its inhabitants, shared on independence, hold on so much.

But in Mr. Puigdemont’s entourage it is said that “there is no plan B” to give way to another.

Puigdemont “seems more and more locked in a solitary resistance,” Catalan editorialist Jordi Amat, a specialist in the independence movement, told AFP.

“There is no reason to believe that we will not remain bogged down in a situation of institutional conflict,” he added.

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