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  • Former Catalonia cabinet member Raul Romeva (C) speaks to journalists next to Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) General Secretary Marta Rovira on the final day of campagining for Catalonia

    Former Catalonia cabinet member Raul Romeva (C) speaks to journalists next to Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) General Secretary Marta Rovira on the final day of campagining for Catalonia's regional elections outside the Estremera prison where Romeva was peviously held and dismissed Catalan vice president Oriol Junqueras is being held pending trial on charges of sedition, rebellion and misappropriation of funds in Estremera, Spain, December 19, 2017. | Photo: reuters

Published 19 December 2017

Tensions were high among the Catalan politicians during their last and final televised debate before Thursday’s regional elections.

Tensions were high among the Catalan politicians during their final televised debate before Thursday’s regional elections.

50,000 Protesters Rally for Catalan Independence in Brussels

Candidates and party leaders who represented jailed or self-exiled candidates took part in the debates.

Marta Rovira, secretary general of the Catalan Republican Left, ERC, the party stood in for the presidential candidate, Oriol Junqueras, who has been a political prisoner for nearly two months facing charges of sedition and rebellion for his part in the Oct. 1 independence vote.

Rovira clashed with anti-independence Citizens party presidential candidate Ines Arrimadas several times. Arrimadas said, “people on the street do notice the drop in investment, the drop in tourism, they notice the waiting lists.” Directly to Rovira, Arrimadas said, “you have a problem with reality, you live in the bubble of the independence process. ... You live in a 'republic' and it … we have seen how businesses have fled, we have experienced the economic costs."

Rovira responded saying, “The Spanish state is allergic to democracy both now and on October 1. … It completely alters the rules of the game. It does not respect the democratic rules of the game and that is what prevents Oriol Junqueras from being here today. Oriol Junqueras remains in prison at the insistence of the PP (People's Party), Citizens, and the PSC (Socialist Party). Oriol Junqueras cannot participate in this debate under the same circumstances as the other candidates in a way that is absolutely unjust and evidently harms the rights of voters."

Carles Mundo, also of the ERC said to voters, “December 21 I want you to think of the political burden of Oct. 1, article 155, the oppression that Catalonia is living and the political prisoners who are in jail today.”

Thursday's election is expected to attract a record turnout. Polls have ERC and Citizens running neck and neck in the lead. However, pundits say both parties are unlikely to gain the 68 seats required for a legislative majority in the parliamentary elections.

Miquel Iceta of the non-separatist PSC called for “normalcy and stability” to be reestablished in Catalonia.

Puigdemont: Catalan Independence is the 'Best' Option

Josep Rull from Together for Catalonia, (JxCat), the party of former Catalan president and self-exiled Carles Puigdemont, said during the Monday night debate, "these elections are exceptional. We’re talking about having people in jail: Junqueras, ... Jordi (Sanchez of JxCat) and Jordi (Cuixart, independence leader). We want a regional government elected by the people ... not a regional government elected by Mariano Rajoy appointments.”

Former Catalan president and self-exiled candidate, Carles Puigdemont is campaigning from Brussels. In a rally speech last week projected in Barcelona, Puidgemont said, Independence is the "best social policy" solution for Catalonia.

The presidential candidate said that if elected he’ll return to Spain, "if the government respects the (electoral) results.”  

Fearing political imprisonment from the Spanish government for leading the Oct. 1 independence referendum, Puigdemont and four of his cabinet ministers fled to Brussels in late October. The government put out an international warrant for their arrest, which it later revoked.

Despite the risk of becoming a political prisoner if he returns to Spain, Puigdemont has tweeted via the JxCat account that "to risk being detained for ideas that can make you president is possibly a risk worth taking.”

The regional elections were announced in early November by the Spanish government after Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy and Congress invoked the constitutional article 155 taking over direct rule of the region and ousted all Catalan authorities and elected officials from their posts. 

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