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Stalemate in Catalonia still as vote on new president is suspended

Carles Puigdemont (c) and JXCat leaders in Brussels this week.
Carles Puigdemont (c) and JXCat leaders in Brussels this week. / EFE
  • A judge said that Jordi Sànchez couldn't leave jail for the debate, forcing secessionist politicians to discuss what to do next to avoid a fresh election

Plans to appoint a new president of the Catalan government have taken a step backwards in the last week after the speaker of the regional parliament suspended the expected debate and vote last Monday on the candidacy of Jordi Sànchez. Last Friday, 9 March, a Supreme Court judge ruled that Sànchez would not be allowed to leave jail to attend the debate. He is being held during investigations into last October's illegal declaration of independence for fear of repeating his alleged offences of sedition and rebellion.

Sànchez's lawyers said immediately after the judge's decision that he would appeal the decision to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, citing a precedent of when a man in jail over ETA terrorist offences was permitted to leave to attend a Basque parliamentary session. The judge, however, said that the two cases weren't comparable. For the moment Sànchez, of the Junts per Catalunya (JxCat) political group, has decided to appeal the Supreme Court decision in Spain first before referring it to Strasbourg.

The speaker of the Catalan parliament, Roger Torrent, now faces the dilemma of whether to wait for the legal appeal process before convening MPs or find another secessionist candidate. Separatist MPs hold a majority in the chamber.

Leaders of JxCat were in Brussels this week to meet with Carles Puigdemont, ex-president who recently stepped aside as candidate in favour of his number two, Jordi Sànchez. The JxCat members urged the other Catalan separatist parties, ERC and CUP, to be patient with the candidacy of Sànchez, with the increasing possibility that Catalans will be called to vote again in new regional elections if no president is appointed by MPs. The suggested new candidacy of Jordi Turull, who is neither in jail nor in exile, was rejected by JxCat.