Independence leader Carles Puigdemont, the main figure in Catalonia’s secession attempt in 2017, was replaced on Saturday June 4 at the head of his party by a tandem including a representative of the hard wing. “It happens to be my last [congress] as president,” he told activists from Junts per Catalunya (Together for Catalonia), gathered in Argelès-sur-Mer, a coastal town in the Pyrénées-Orientales near the border with Spain. “Organizations need to be able and know how to make replacements,” added Puigdemont, 59.
The separatist leader announced at the beginning of May that he would not run again at the head of his formation because it needed, according to him, “a more involved presidency” than he could offer.
Settled in Belgium to escape Spanish justice
At the head of the Catalan regional government during the October 2017 secession attempt, Mr. Puigdemont fled shortly afterwards to Belgium, where he has been installed for almost five years, in order to escape prosecution from Spanish justice. The General Court of the European Union restored, at the end of May, his MEP immunity, which had been lifted by the European Parliament, but the separatist leader is still waiting for European justice to rule on the merits of this very complex.
In 2017, Catalonia was the scene of one of the worst crises experienced by Spain since the end of the Franco dictatorship in 1975. The Catalan separatists then organized a referendum on self-determination, despite its ban by justice Spanish, before unilaterally declaring the region’s independence.
In 2019, nine separatist leaders were sentenced to up to 13 years in prison for their role in this secession attempt. The government of socialist Pedro Sanchez decided to pardon them last year, in the name of “reconciliation”.
Jordi Turull, who is to be officially appointed on Saturday as the new general secretary of Junts per Catalunya, was among the imprisoned leaders.
He will form a tandem at the head of the party with the president of the Catalan regional parliament, Laura Borras, representative of the hard wing of the party.
Coming third in the 2021 regional elections, Mr. Puigdemont’s party is a member of the separatist regional government chaired by the other major independence party, ERC (Republican Left of Catalonia).
The tensions between these two parties are constant, Junts being very critical of the dialogue with the central government undertaken by ERC, in addition to supporting the latter in the Spanish Parliament.