Spain Rejects Catalan Cabinet Picks, Maintains Direct Rule

Spain refuses to accept ministers who are facing criminal charges for their role in last year’s referendum.

Prime Ministers Binali Yıldırım of Turkey and Mariano Rajoy of Spain deliver a news conference in Madrid, April 24
Prime Ministers Binali Yıldırım of Turkey and Mariano Rajoy of Spain deliver a news conference in Madrid, April 24 (La Moncloa)

Spain has rejected four of the ministers nominated by the newly inaugurated Catalan president, Quim Torra, postponing the restoration of autonomy in the region.

Spanish authorities have described the cabinet picks as a “provocation”. The reason is that two of them are in jail, awaiting trial for their role in the October 1 referendum, while the other two have fled to Belgium.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has called for a “viable” Catalan government.

El País reports that Rajoy’s refusal to restore home rule has created the novel situation “in which Torra is the head of the Catalan government, yet each regional department will continue to answer to the national minister currently in charge of each area.”

Direct rule

Rajoy suspended Catalonia’s autonomy under Article 155 of the Constitution when Carles Puigdemont, the regional president at the time, claimed the outcome of the October 1 referendum as a mandate to break away.

The Constitutional Court had ruled the referendum illegal.

Spain promised to lift direct rule as soon as the Catalans elected a new government.

Who are the four ministers?

  • Jordi Turull: A former government spokesman. Turull was briefly a candidate for the regional presidency before he was jailed earlier this year to face charges of rebellion and sedition.
  • Josep Rull: Former territorial minister. Currently in jail facing similar charges.
  • Toni Comín: Former health minister. Has fled to Belgium to avoid arrest.
  • Lluís Puig: Former minister of culture. Has also fled to Belgium.

Where the other parties stand

  • Miquel Iceta, the leader of the Catalan Socialist Party, has told ACN that while the four cabinet picks are a “mistake”, “there’s no reason” for Spain to challenge them.
  • The Citizens — the largest opposition party in Catalonia and Rajoy’s allies nationally — argue that direct rule should be maintained until Torra proves he will comply with the law.
  • The Basque Nationalist Party has conditioned its support for Rajoy’s budget on the lifting of direct rule. Rajoy, who leads a minority government, cannot get his spending plan through Congress without support from the Basques.