MADRID: The Catalan Parliament Speaker Roger Torrent announced on Tuesday morning that he was delaying the confidence debate to reappoint Carles Puigdemont First Minister of Catalonia.
The debate had been scheduled to begin on Tuesday at 3 pm Torrent did not cancel the debate, though, and said Puigdemont was still the candidate.
“We will not accept them telling Catalan men and women that they have voted badly after they voted for what they wanted”, he said, adding that the candidacy of Puigdemont was “the will expressed by a majority of this chamber”.
Torrent said he had now “personally committed to guaranteeing his immunity” after the former First Minister petitioned the Speaker for such protection on Monday.
The Speaker has instructed the regional chamber’s legal services to prepare arguments to defend Puigdemont.
“I have a duty to protect the sovereignty of this parliament from anti-democratic intromissions and attacks”, he said, adding that elected members would choose the new First Minister, “not someone in an office 600km away”.
Earlier, it was reported that Roger Torrent postponed the vote for the new regional head.
Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy reiterated on Tuesday that Puigdemont could not be a candidate because he was in exile in Brussels, after a warrant for his arrest was ordered following his illegal declaration of independence at the end of October.
Rajoy said the “most sensible” thing for the parliament speaker would be to propose a “clean candidate” who was willing to obey the law and work for the return of normality in Catalonia.
Last week Puigdemont travelled to Denmark on his first trip outside Belgium since beginning his self-imposed exile – risking arrest.
The Spanish Supreme Court said it would not re-activate a European Arrest Warrant for the leader, however, has withdrawn it in December to prevent the Belgian government granting Puigdemont asylum.
The Spanish government late last year dissolved the Catalan home rule administration and imposed direct rule from Madrid on the province after moves towards independence by its separatist government.
Following new elections in December, an alliance of pro-independence parties won a majority again – albeit a narrower one than before.