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News > World

Catalan Assembly Members Can't be Sworn in Virtually

  •  Dismissed Catalan vice president Oriol Junqueras arrives to Spain's High Court after being summoned to testify on charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds in Madrid.

    Dismissed Catalan vice president Oriol Junqueras arrives to Spain's High Court after being summoned to testify on charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds in Madrid. | Photo: Reuters

Published 9 January 2018
Opinion

Secretary-General of the non-separatist political party says that the president needs to physically present to be sworn in.

Members of the yet-seated Catalan Parliament say that the newly-elected members of the regional government can’t be sworn in by teleconference.

RELATED: 
Puigdemont Is Willing to Return to Spain

Jose Manuel Villegas, Secretary General of the non-separatist political party, Ciudadanos, says that the president needs to be physically present to be sworn in - anything else would be a violation of the regional constitution.

Ciudadanos won 37 parliamentary seats in the region’s Dec. 21 elections, the highest number won by a single party. Coming in second was Carles Puigdemont’s Junts per Catalunya party, or JxCat, with 34 seats and Catalan Republican Left, ERC, with 32.

The multi-party pro-independence coalition took a house majority with 70 out of 135 seats.

The question of virtual versus live swear-ins is closer and closer to being a political issue for pro-independence parties of the upcoming Catalan Parliament due to be sworn on Jan 17.

Just days ago the imprisoned parliamentary winner, Oriol Junqueras from the pro-independence, Catalan Republican Left, ERC, was denied release from prison by the Spanish Supreme Court.

He and three other pro-independence parliamentary winners are still imprisoned on allegations of rebellion and sedition to misuse public funds. If the pro-independence coalition, which hangs onto its majority by a thread, can’t swear in all of its members it may lose its ability to place Carles Puigdemont back at the helm of the Generalitat. Puigdemont and all regional elected officials were removed from their posts in late October after Spain’s prime minister and Congress dissolved the region’s government under Article 155 of the constitution.    

Fearing imprisonment, Puigdemont and several others from his former cabinet self-exiled to Belgium where they remain. The Supreme Tribunal maintains that if Puigdemont returns he’ll be arrested.

The former Catalan president has waffled as to whether he will return if elected as president by the parliament. At one point saying he will "risk being detained” in Spain, while during a press conference he said he will only return to Spain if the government gives him "guarantees" - likely a promise not to arrest him. Without the ability to be sworn in electronically, Puigdemont will have to make a decision if he should take up the post.

After the Supreme Court ruled against Junqueras release, Puigdemont tweeted: "There is a conflict between Catalonia and Spain that must be resolved. We have always opted for peace and dialogue".

Meanwhile, a just-released poll from the Sociological Center for Investigation finds that the concern over Catalan independence has dropped by several points since October. That month 29 percent of the Catalan population was “concerned” as opposed to December when only 16.7 percent were worried - either way - about regional separation.

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