Carles Puigdemont to stand in European elections from exile

As several imprisoned Catalan politicians announce their intention to stand in April’s Spanish elections, the former Catalan president says it is time to “internationalise” Catalonia’s self-determination struggle

  • Former Catalan President will run in the European parliamentary elections in May, as will his former vice president Oriol Junqueras
  • Several of the Catalan leaders currently on trial for rebellion and sedition have also announced their intention to run on a pro-independence ticket in the Spanish elections in April
  • It remains unclear whether Puigdemont or Junqueras could assume their office as MEPs, due to legal requirements which are set at the national level

CARLES PUIGDEMONT, the exiled former president of Catalonia currently sought by Spanish authorities, has announced his intention to run in the upcoming European elections.

Puigdemont – who fled Spain in October 2017 after the imposition of direct rule on Catalonia by the Spanish Government, and faces charges of rebellion and sedition for his role in Catalonia’s 2017 independence referendum – confirmed on 10 March that he will be the leading candidate of the Junts per Catalunya party in the 26 May EU elections.

Writing on Twitter, Puigdemont said: "It is the moment to make another step to internationalise the self-determination right of Catalonia from Europe's heart to all the world.”

Puigdemont’s announcement follows that of several pro-independence Catalan politicians currently on charges similar to those facing the former president – including Jordi Sànchez, Quim Forn, Jordi Turull and Josep Rull - who have stated their intention to stand in Spain’s upcoming snap-election in April while imprisoned.

"It is the moment to make another step to internationalise the self-determination right of Catalonia from Europe's heart to all the world.” Former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont

Despite his self-imposed exile, which has seen him travel internationally and currently finds him in Belgium, Puigdemont was re-elected to the Catalan parliament in the elections of December 2017, which returned a slim but workable majority for Catalonia’s pro-independence parties. Subsequent attempts by these parties to elect him as president were blocked by the Spanish courts.

A European Arrest Warrant for Puigdemont was dropped by the Spanish Supreme Court in July 2018, following Germany’s refusal to extradite him on rebellion charges, which are not recognised under German law.

Last week also saw confirmation former Catalan vice-president Oriol Junqueras - one of the defendants currently being tried in Spain, who has been in pre-trial detention for 16 months – will stand in the European elections as well, representing Esquerra Republicana de Cataluna.

Esquerra MEP Jordi Sole said in a statement: "If the Spanish state wants to silence him [Junqueras], we will give him a voice.”

READ MORE: Exclusive: Exiled former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont tells CommonSpace the Spanish state must undergo 'de-Francoisation’

Within the European Parliament, Esquerra Republicana de Cataluna is one of 45 member parties of the European Free Alliance, which seeks to defend the right to self-determination of stateless nations and regions across the EU.

However, despite support from the EFA, it remains uncertain whether Junqueras or Puigdemont will be able to assume office as MEPs if elected. Both politicians have been temporarily suspended as MPs in the Catalan Parliament, following a ruling from the Spanish Supreme Court in July 2018 which enforced an article of the Spanish criminal code enabling those facing rebellion charges to be suspended from public office until their case reaches a verdict.

Further complicating matters are the national requirements imposed on MEPs. Some have argued that under Spanish electoral law, Puigdemont would have to return to Spain – where he would face arrest – in order to formally swear to the central electoral board that he would comply with the Spanish constitution as a European lawmaker.

Meanwhile, those imprisoned Catalan politicians standing in the Spanish elections – which were called by Spain’s socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez after losing the support of Catalan parties – defended their decision to run in a letter posted on the Junst per Catalunya website.

READ MORE: Analysis: The Catalan trials are political, regardless of what the Spanish Government says

The letter states: "We're going out to win, as we did on December 21, 2017.

"We will make our commitment to honest politics — with a return to dialogue, and harmony between peoples and defence of democracy — central to our action.

"An action that will exercise the right to self-determination of Catalonia.”

Amongst these candidates is the jailed Catalan activist Jordi Sànchez, one of the 12 Catalan leaders currently on trial, who is expected to lead a pro-independence ticket in the April election. The ticket will also include members of the pro-independence PDeCAT party, following an agreement struck with Junts per Catalunya over the weekend.

The ticket will also included jailed former minister Jordi Turull and Jorep Rull. In the Girona constituency, Puigdemont’s lawyer Jaume-Alonso Cuevillas will represent the platform, while Montse Bassa, sister of the jailed former labour minister Dolors Bassa, will be running as the Esquerra candidate.

Picture: CommonSpace

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