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'Unavoidable to form a government', say ERC leaders in prison and exile

Oriol Junqueras and Marta Rovira urge pro-independence parties to reach agreement and avoid new election

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14 April 2018 12:02 PM

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ACN | Barcelona

The leaders of Esquerra Republicana (ERC), the second biggest pro-independence party in Catalonia, said on Saturday that it is "unavoidable" to form a new government in Catalonia. Oriol Junqueras, who is jailed in Madrid, and Marta Rovira, fighting extradition from Switzerland, said that there is "no alternative" to reaching an agreement.

Catalonia has been under direct rule from the Spanish government since it declared independence last October and Madrid has warned it will not lift the intervention, based on Article 155 of the constitution, until there is a new Catalan government that "respects the rule of law."

So far, though, four attempts by pro-independence forces to elect a new president have been blocked by Spanish courts, and all candidates are either in jail or abroad. According to the Spanish executive, pro-independence forces should put forward a candidate not being investigated by the judiciary.

"Without a government we cannot get our institutions back, we are weaker," said Junqueras in a letter sent from prison. According to the ERC leader, not having a government is a "step backwards." In an interview with the Catalan News Agency (ACN), Marta Rovira also urged pro-independence politicians in Parliament to negotiate to reach agreements because "there is no alternative."

The biggest pro-independence party, Carles Puigdemont's candidacy Junts per Catalunya (JxCat), would want its leader to be elected, but he is in Germany and ERC is skeptical about a proxy presidency. The party has always urged its allies to form an "effective" government that could not be challenged in court by Spain. Attempts to elect other candidates, including jailed MPs Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Turull, have all been frustrated by courts.

JxCat has started an internal "discussion" on what to do now, and its MPs will travel to Germany next week to discuss it with Puigdemont. The third pro-independence party in Parliament, far-left CUP, has always said it will only vote in favor of Puigdemont as presidential candidate.

If pro-independence parties do not form a government before May 22, a new election will be automatically called.

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  • Catalan vice president Oriol Junqueras (by ACN)