Catalan president Torra loses seat in regional assembly

JxCAT deputies in Catalan Parlament applaud Quim Torra, while ERC deputies remain seated, silent. Photo: El País
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Catalan President Quim Torra was divested of his seat in the regional Parlament in a raucous session on Monday that drove a wedge between Torra’s own centre-right JxCAT party and pro-independence allies Esquerra Republicana and left Catalonia’s government teetering on the brink of collapse.

Monday’s session followed a Supreme Court ruling last week that upheld a mandate from the national Junta Electoral Central elections board that Torra be stripped of his seat in the regional parliament because of a prior court ruling by Catalonia’s Tribunal Superior de Justicia that the Catalan president be barred from holding public office.

That ruling stemmed from Torra’s defiance in March 2019 of an order by the Junta that banners bearing yellow ribbons and slogans in support of Catalan independence leaders on trial in Madrid be removed from regional government buildings until after the 28th April general elections.

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Following the Supreme Court ruling last week, the Junta informed the Catalan parliamentary authorities that Torra can no longer hold his seat in the Catalan legislature. The legal office of the Parlament concurred and prior to Monday’s session in the assembly Torra was told by Parlament Presient Roger Torrent of the ERC that he could no longer cast a vote as deputy.

Monday’s scheduled legislative session was then thrown into turmoil, aided by a loophole in Catalonia’s regional Estatut charter that says only an elected deputy may be chosen regional President by the Parlament, but does not specify that an elected President must step down if he loses his seat in the assembly.

Right-wing opposition parties called on Torra to resign, saying he could no longer continue as President; Torra’s own JxCAT party called on Torrent to reconsider and reinstate the regional president as a sitting deputy. Meanwhile, Torrent’s ERC party tried to stay neutral, unwilling to support the regional president and challenge the authority of the Junta Electoral and the Supreme Court.

In a sign of solidarity with their leader, the entire JxCAT delegation refused to vote to approve Catalonia’s pending regional budget, sinking the prospect of its passage and putting the continuation of the legislature and the regional government in jeopardy. As JxCAT deputies stood to applaud Torra, the split between the centre-right party and its ERC pro-independence ally became evident as the entire ERC delegation remained seated and silent.

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