Spain moves to block Catalan ex-leader forming government

Carles Puigdemont has been avoiding Spanish soil to avoid punitive action that the Spanish government may take against him. (Reuters pic)

MADRID: Spain moved on Wednesday to block pro-independence politicians in Catalonia from voting in former leader Carles Puigdemont, who is currently in Germany, as their regional head as a deadline looms to form a government and avoid fresh elections.

Madrid said it was appealing a new Catalan law that would have allowed the erstwhile chief to be elected at a distance while he waits in Berlin for German courts to rule on a Spanish request to extradite him.

“We are appealing … against a law that aims to swear in someone who has fled from justice and is living abroad,” Rajoy told reporters at the lower house of parliament in Madrid.

Catalan lawmakers must pick a leader to form a government by May 22 to avoid more elections and plot a path out of a seven-month standoff which has given the eurozone’s fourth-largest economy its worst dose of political instability in decades.

The disputed law was approved last week by the Barcelona parliament, which is still dominated by secessionist forces since elections last December which Rajoy had hoped would stifle the independence movement.

The appeal blocks the law until Spain’s national Constitutional Court makes a final decision, which could take months.

Puigdemont fled to Belgium in October after Rajoy fired his administration for holding a banned referendum, and was then arrested while travelling through Germany.