MADRID (Reuters) – Spain’s electoral board on Friday ordered the pro-independence president of Catalonia’s government be stripped of his regional lawmaker role, in a move that may complicate efforts to end a prolonged national political deadlock.
The board issued its ruling that Quim Torra lose his legislator’s job on the eve of a possible turning point in the country’s bid to re-establish stable government following its worst political furore in decades.
On Saturday parliament holds a vote in which Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez is relying on the abstention of Catalan separatists Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) — a political ally of Torra — to confirm him as Prime Minister.
The ERC, which governs Catalonia as part of a coalition with Torra’s Junts per Catalunya party, signaled discontent with the board’s ruling, a sentiment that could cast a shadow over Sanchez’s prospects of confirmation.
Senior ERC lawmaker Gabriel Rufian described the decision as a “coup d’etat” on Twitter, while fellow ERC top official Pere Aragones referred to it as “abhorrent,” confirming his support for Torra.
A parliamentary source also said the board has decided to block ERC’s jailed leader Oriol Junqueras from taking up his position as a member of the European Parliament.
The ERC called a meeting of its executive board for Saturday to evaluate the political consequences of the ruling on Torra, which follows Torra’s sentencing by Catalonia’s highest court to an 18-month ban from public office over his refusal to remove separatist symbols from government buildings.
Torra has appealed against the court’s ruling, meaning it could take months for the ban to come into force, if it is upheld.
Speaking outside the seat of the Catalan government in Barcelona, Torra condemned the board’s decision and described the rulings against himself and Junqueras as an “extremely serious attack.”
Torra’s lawyer was not immediately available for comment and it is unclear if he can appeal against the board’s ruling.
The board ordered the cancellation of Torra’s regional lawmaker credentials but said this would not take effect until official notification by Barcelona’s provincial electoral board.
According to a statement by the Catalan government, the ban refers to Torra’s position as a lawmaker in the region’s parliament but not his role as head of the regional government.
(Reporting by Nathan Allen, Joan Faus, Belén Carreño and Jesus Aguado, Editing by William Maclean)