29 Jun, 2024 @ 14:50
2 mins read

Catalan parliament supports motion allowing exiled MPs to vote remotely – in huge boost for separatist leader Carles Puigdemont

May 12, 2024, Argeles Sur Mer, France: Former Catalan president and Junts per Catalunya pro-independence candidate CARLES PUIGDEMONT holds a speech during Catalonia's regional vote election night in Argeles Sur Mer (Argelers), France. (Credit Image: © Jordi Boixareu/ZUMA Press Wire)

THE Socialists have united with pro-independence parties in Catalunya’s regional chamber to support a motion allowing exiled MPs, including the controversial separatist leader and regional presidential candidate Carles Puigdemont, to vote on legislative matters remotely.

Puidgemont, who was President of Catalunya during the illegal, unilateral declaration of independence in 2017, has lived in exile in Belgium for seven years after the Spanish government opened criminal proceedings against him, including rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds.

However, since he was returned as an MP following regional elections in May, doubt has arisen as to whether Puidgemont will be able to participate in votes, particularly after Spain’s Constitutional Court annulled the right for fellow exiled MP Lluis Puig to vote online. 

This point has proven particularly important as Puigdemont is just one of two candidates – alongside Socialist leader Salvador Illa – for the presidency of Catalunya, and the highly controversial amnesty law for those convicted for their roles in the independence crisis has not yet come into force.

The new legislation approved this week will allow online voting in ‘exceptional and duly justified’ situations that would otherwise ‘impede the development of the parliamentary function’.

The move is a major boost for Puidgemont, Puig and exiled Esquerra MP Ruben Wagensberg, who currently lives in Switzerland. 

The motion amending the mechanism by which MPs can vote was supported by the Socialists, Junts (of which Puigdemont is leader), Esquerra (ERC), the Comuns and the CUP.

READ MORE: Carles Puigdemont accuses Pedro Sanchez of ‘blackmail’: Spain’s Prime Minister promises Catalunya additional funding if Socialist ally becomes regional president

carles puigdemont
Former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont is set to benefit from the law modification. Credit: Cordon Press

As part of the amendment, there will also be an expansion of the circumstances in which MPs can delegate their votes – previously, this was limited to MPs with serious illnesses or on maternity or paternity leave.

The decision to approve online voting comes on the same week that the first investiture session of the new parliament failed, beginning a two-month countdown which will see repeat elections called if no candidate is able to drum up sufficient support to become regional president.

Josep Rull, the parliamentary speaker who spent over three years in prison for his role in the independence crisis, formally announced a resolution setting the deadline as August 26. If no agreement is reached, voters will be sent back to the polls on October 13.

He said: “After consultations with the parties, none have proposed a candidate to go through the presidential investiture debate in the first deadline of ten days”.

The move sets the scene for an intense summer of negotiations as the two candidates for presidency – Junts leader Carles Puigdemont and Socialist leader Salvador Illa – seek to receive the support of a majority within the regional chamber, known as the Generalitat.

The pair are the two candidates of the parties who won the most seats in last month’s vote – Puigdemont’s separatist Junts party won 35 votes, whilst Illa’s PSC Socialists, the Catalan branch of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s ruling PSOE party, won with 42 seats.

However, both parties fell well short of the 68 seats required to command a majority within the regional parliament.

Illa believes he could become president if the ERC, a left-wing pro-independence party who won 20 votes, decide to lend him their support.

Puigdemont meanwhile believes he could return to his former role if he garners the support of all the pro-independence parties and forces the abstention of the PSC.

To do this, he may threaten to withdraw his Junts party’s support in the national Congress of Deputies for the PSOE, which would see Sanchez lose his working majority. 

Ben Pawlowski

Ben joined the Olive Press in January 2024 after a four-month stint teaching English in Paraguay. He loves the adrenaline rush of a breaking news story and the tireless work required to uncover an eye-opening exclusive. He is currently based in Barcelona from where he covers the city, the wider Catalunya region, and the north of Spain. Send tips to ben@theolivepress.es

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