Ousted Catalan Leader to Return as President, Maybe

Catalan’s ousted president may soon find himself back in charge of Catalan, but not if Spanish Prime Minister Rajoy has anything to say about it.

It’s been a few months since Catalan voted to secede from Spain. Since then, we saw the Government in Madrid force direct rule on the province, arrest Catalan’s leaders or force them to flee abroad, and require new elections for Catalan’s government before the resumption of local rule. But in spite of the best efforts of Madrid to rid the Catalonians of their stubborn independent streak, the chastised and defiant people of Catalan gave a majority of their government to independence parties while shrinking the Rajoy’s own party’s representation to a mere four members.

Adding to the good news for Catalan independence, in December, Spain withdrew its international arrest warrant for Carles Puigdemont, who has been living in exile in Brussels. Now, through an agreement between the parties that form Catalan’s independence coalition, Puigdemont maybe reinstalled as president once more.

Besides these welcome developments, not all is well in Catalan. Puidgdemont may be the agreed head of the Catalonian government, but he is legally required to read a “mandatory installation speech to the Catalan Parliament on 17 January,” and must do so in person. However, he is still wanted by the Spanish authorities, and if he returns, it is likely the Spanish will be waiting to take him into custody. Legal proposals are in the works to allow Puigedmont to give his speech by means of a video link, however, Rajoy is insisting that a proxy swearing-in is impossible, and that direct rule will continue if the president-elect fails to return.

While Puigdemont remains hopeful that, if a deal can be arranged with Spain, he will return to Catalan to give the compulsory speech. While this scenario seems unlikely, if the last few months are any indication of the determination of Catalan, I expect this is not the end of the matter, and that Spain may yet have a little more crow to eat before it’s resolved. We will soon find out.