Exiled Catalan Leader Wishes To Head New Government Via Skype

With the promise of arrest upon returning to Spain, the former Catalan president wishes to lead government from exile.

Catalan parliament leader Carles Puigdemont gives a press conference during exile in Brussels.
Virginia Mayo / AP Images

With the promise of arrest upon returning to Spain, the former Catalan president wishes to lead government from exile.

The exiled leader of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, has raised the possibility that he could lead the newly elected Catalonia government via Skype. The former president of Catalonia fled to Belgium in 2017 following charges by the Spanish government of rebellion and sedition for his role in the region’s illegal independence elections. Upon returning to Catalonia, he would face immediate arrest by Spanish officials.

Despite this fact, on Wednesday, the government of Catalonia declared that they would seek to re-elect Puigdemont as their president. This move has raised legal and logistical concerns about how a government could function without the physical presence of their president. As reported by the Financial Times, the possibility of using Skype to lead has been suggested.

As reported by Reuters, the Spanish government announced on Friday that leading from abroad would be impossible and illegal. Speaking during a weekly press conference, Spanish government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo explained that the move would go against clear parliamentary rules.

“Parliamentary rules are very clear. They do not contemplate the possibility of a presence that is not in person. This aspiration is a fallacy, it’s totally unrealistic and it goes against the rule books and common sense.”

Catalan protester stands with sign that reads "Freedom for Political Prisoners" in support of detained Catalan government officials.
  Manu Fernandez / AP Images

Tensions between the government of Spain and the region of Catalonia have been strained since Catalonia held an independence referendum that was deemed illegal by the Spanish Constitution. Following the referendum, under the leadership of then President Puigdemont, Catalonia declared itself an independent country.

Spain swiftly cracked down on Catalonia by arresting high-ranking officials and dissolving the region’s government. Direct rule was declared under the leadership of Spain’s president, Mariano Rajoy, and snap elections were called for December 21, 2017.

The results of December’s snap elections dealt a blow to Spanish Unionist as Pro-Catalan Independence Parties won the majority of parliament with 70 of the 135 seats. This means that the pro-independence parties are now in charge of forming the new Catalonia government. This has been difficult endeavor since five Catalan parliament officials are avoiding arrest in Belgium and another three are in custody in Madrid.

Spanish law states that these officials can resign and others take their place, but it is a move that is unlikely due to what these individuals symbolize to the pro-independence movement.

Catalonia has been without a regional government since Spain declared direct rule in October 2017. During this time, the tourism industry has taken a big hit, and hundreds of companies have chosen to leave. Many hoped that the new elections would restore normalcy to the region, but they have only seemed to widen the political divide.