The Prosecutor’s Office requests prison for Puigdemont, a possible key to the formation of a government

Spanish socialist leader and Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, arrives for the executive meeting at his headquarters in Madrid, Spain, 24 July 2023.

This Monday, July 24, the Spanish Prosecutor’s Office reissued the search and arrest warrant against Carles Puigdemont, former president of the Generalitat of Catalonia, accused of rebellion and embezzlement after the referendum and the unilateral declaration of independence on October 1, 2017. On July 5, the European Justice withdrew his immunity as a MEP and the PSOE celebrated it. However, Junts per Catalunya and Puigdemont are now key pieces for the possible formation of a government in Spain after the general elections of 23J.

The request has been made effective. This Monday, July 24, the Spanish Prosecutor’s Office asked Judge Pablo Llanera, investigator of the case against the former regional president of Catalonia Carles Puigdemont, to reissue the international search and arrest warrant against him after the withdrawal of his immunity by the European Justice on July 5.

A request that comes at a time when the independence party Junts per Catalunya is key to the eventual formation of a government in Spain, after the 23J elections, so close that there is still no clear majority to govern.

“One day you are decisive in forming a Spanish government, the next day Spain orders your arrest,” Puigdemont said with an ironic tone through his social networks.

The order also includes his former advisor Antoni Comín, both are accused of alleged rebellion and embezzlement in relation to the Catalan independence process, which could lead to between six and twelve years in prison.

The Prosecutor’s Office specifically requests that the European Justice arrest and hand over the two defendants directly to the Spanish authorities, who have been in exile in Belgium for five and a half years, to avoid facing trial in Spain. All in the midst of what the defendants point out as a judicial persecution by the authorities of their country after the independence referendum on October 1, 2017 in Catalonia, which Madrid described as “illegal”.

Puigdemont and Comín could appeal the sentence, but the Spanish Prosecutor’s Office has stressed that this appeal would not have suspensive effects on the previous sentence, issued in January 2023.

“Taking into account the personal situation of both politicians, fled from Justice and in absentia, it is appropriate to issue international and European arrest warrants again,” says the order issued by Llanera.

Puigdemont and Comín lost judicial immunity as MEPs on July 5, a decision that the Government of Sánchez and the PSOE celebrated as the “triumph of Justice and respect for European institutions”.

However, now the former president of the Generalitat and his political formation are key pieces to achieve the coalition of a government led by the PSOE, after the inconclusive elections on Sunday. And that could have to force them to lower their tone and, above all, to make concessions to the independence movement.

Amnesty and independence, the bargaining chip raised by Junts per Catalunya

What will happen now with the Spanish government? It is the question that many ask themselves after neither the progressive bloc, with the PSOE and Sumar, nor the right-wing one, with the PP and Vox, managed to gather the at least 176 seats necessary to govern with an absolute majority.

The President of the Spanish Government, Pedro Sánchez, has already assured that he does not plan to repeat elections and that he trusts that “democracy will find a way out to form a government.” A context in which Sánchez’s options are reduced.

Although the PSOE and Sumar obtained 153 seats, insufficient to form a majority, they have the possibility of governing again in the next legislature, but to do so, this time they would need the abstention of Junts, which reached 7 seats, and the affirmative vote of Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC), with another 7, EH Bildu, with 6, and the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV), with 5.

Spanish socialist leader and Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, arrives for the executive meeting at his headquarters in Madrid, Spain, 24 July 2023. © Juan Medina / Reuters

However, the path foresees difficulties. In the last hours, the general secretary of Junts, Jordi Turull, made it clear that he is not willing to agree to form a government without getting anything in return.

“I don’t see the investiture anywhere right now,” Turull said after suggesting to the rest of the pro-independence forces, decisive in forming a majority in Parliament, to take advantage of the “window of opportunity” to try to get closer to the independence of Catalonia.

An independence referendum and amnesty for the convicted separatist leaders are at the heart of his conditions to abstain from the vote and thus favor the investiture of Sánchez. Two complex scenarios that clash with the PSOE program, which also defends the unity of the Spanish territory, and one of the thorniest issues.

In fact, Sánchez’s pacts with ERC and Bildu for the approval of some of his government projects cost him strong criticism and were one of the keys to citizen discontent that caused the setback of the PSOE in the regional and municipal elections on May 28, precisely what caused the advancement of the general elections, which were initially scheduled for the end of 2023.

“The State knows that if it wants to negotiate with us, there are two issues that are fundamental and generate consensus in Catalonia, which are amnesty and self-determination,” Turull remarked to the local Catalan radio station ‘RAC 1’.

Puigdemont, who still has a lot of weight within Junts, maintained in mid-July that his party would not support Sánchez because “he is not trustworthy.” This Monday he assured that the formation will comply with his word unless they offer beneficial concessions “for the future of Catalonia”.

“Junts owes nothing to anyone except its voters,” said the former president of the Generalitat on July 24.

A PSOE source assured Reuters that the party is confident of reaching an agreement, but that negotiations would take time.

“We are sure of this and that the elections will not be repeated,” he said.

The blocks that choose to stay with the Spanish Executive have assured that they expect to have news in their respective negotiations in August.

Analysts point out that if the Socialist Party wants to reach a pact with the independence movement, Sánchez’s concessions must be greater than those proposed when calling the general elections of 23J.

With Reuters and local media

Source link