Spain's electoral board on Friday disqualified the regional president of Catalonia from holding a seat in the regional parliament and ruled that another leading separatist imprisoned for sedition is ineligible to take a European Parliament seat he was elected to last year.
Both decisions could have broad repercussions in Catalonia and disrupt plans for a new government in Spain led by Socialist Pedro Sánchez.
They will also likely further inflame Catalan separatists already angered by the Spanish government’s point-blank refusal to discuss the wealthy region’s possible independence.
The National Electoral Board took the decision to strip regional Catalan President Quim Torra of his seat after a Catalan court barred him last month from public office during 18 months for disobedience.
Torra had been found guilty for refusing to remove secessionist symbols from public buildings in the northeastern region during an election campaign, a move that violated election law on campaigning. That court decision is open to appeal.
“As long as the Catalan Parliament does not say the contrary, I will be one of its members and the president of Catal onia,” Torra said, vowing not to step down.
Catalans protest the decision
A few thousand separatists gathered in front of the Catalan government seat in Barcelona to protest the attempt at his removal.
The other important decision by the electoral board on Friday was to rule that former Catalan Vice President Oriol Junqueras had lost his eligibility to take the European Parliament seat he had won in May elections.
It said that since Junqueras had been convicted of sedition in October, he was no longer eligible to be a European Parliament member and that the next candidate in line on his party’s list would take his place.
This came after the European Union’s top court rebuked Spain last month, ruling that Junqueras enjoyed immunity from prosecution when he was elected to the bloc's parliament in May. Spain's Supreme Court, which at the time was already hearing the case against Junqueras and other Catalans who pushed ahead with an illegal 2017 declaration of independence, denied Junqueras permission to get out of jail to take his seat. The Supreme Court is expected to make a decision in the coming days regarding how to apply the European ruling.
The decisions by the electoral board will likely also be a major issue for a Socialist-led coalition government that is widely expected to take office in the coming days.
The coalition is heavily dependent on an abstention vote by Junqueras’ ERC party, which is a partner in Torra's regional government.
The secessionist movement in the Catalonia region of 7.5 million is Spain’s gravest political challenge in decades. Polls show residents in Catalonia are roughly evenly divided over the question of independence from Spain.
Spain’s constitution rules that the country is indivisible.