Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, has told the Parliament's speaker, Roger Torrent, that, "provisionally", he will not present himself as a candidate for investiture as president of the new legislature. Puigdemont announced his decision this evening in a message from Brussels in which he also announced that JxCat will propose Jordi Sànchez as their alternative candidate. "He's a man of peace, unjustly locked up in a Spanish prison," he said. Torrent responded immediately, announcing that early next week he will start a series of talks with the parliamentary parties to hear their opinions on potential candidates.
"Everyone should be clear, I won't give in, I won't give up, I won't yield in the face of the illegitimate actions of those who have lost at the ballot box, nor in the face of the capriciousness of those who are prepared to abandon the rule of law and justice to defend the unity of the homeland. I have full confidence that we will win and that some day, I hope soon, I will be able to return to Catalonia as a free man," he said.
Abbreviated statement (in English):
The president said that him stepping aside is the only way to have a new Catalan government as quickly as possible in the current situation which would respect the will of the Catalan people that their institutions should remain governed by pro-independence parties. "There will be no excuse for Madrid to ignore our voices or to not accept our decisions," he said. He did, however, admit that this decision does not completely guarantee the restoration of Catalan autonomy "gravely injured by the state's authoritarianism", but it will give the freedom to undertake the next stretch of the journey towards independence more freely and democratically.
Council of the Republic
He confirmed his strong wish to maintain the republic voters voted for last year and to work to make it possible whilst he remains free. He announced that, in the next few days, he will call the Parliament's deputies to Brussels to constitute the "Council of the Republic" in a solemn ceremony.
The Council is to lead Catalonia on the path to effective independence and address itself both to within the country (in close connection with the government in Barcelona) and abroad. "From this Council, we will organise the defence of our rights and the internationalisation of the new case of the Catalans", he announced, expressing his conviction that only by turning to the international community can the rights of the Catalan people be defended.
Puigdemont also announced that, this afternoon, a team of international lawyers has presented an application to the UN Human Rights Commission over the violation of human, civil and political rights in Spain. "No state of emergency has been declared which would explain the suspension of these rights, nothing justifies the collection of abuses by the Spanish state over these months. The Catalan people deserve to be treated with dignity" he said.
According to the president, the time has come for action so that these abuses do not remain unpunished. "No people which has maintained the defence of its dignity, not one, has ever lost. It's taken more or less time, but if they've had patience, they've always won," he said.
"The time has come to share the decision which, through agreement, will allow us to fulfil the mandate of the 1st October [referendum], to a path of free men and women, not subjects, and which will make possible the restoration of our institutions under the premise that Madrid would do well to not forget: we won't yield, we won't give up, we won't give in".
Puigdemont published the message on social media, hours after the Catalan Parliament approved a resolution recognising the legitimacy of his presidency and the support he has from the majority of the chamber. During his speech, the president thanked the pro-independence deputies for their support, "it's a motion directly connected to the results of the 21st December [election] and the 1st October referendum and remembers the illegitimate application of [article] 155 [of the Spanish Constitution]".
"The only solution to a political conflict is politics. It's up to us to find the way to continue defending and promoting the values of the republic, to defend our democratic rights and to do in a way that reaches the whole world", he said, as well as directly attacking a "monarchy which has, by its own decision, stopped representing all its citizens and only wants to represent them in a certain way".
As examples of commitment to peace and democracy, he cited Oriol Junqueras, Quim Forn, Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart. "Not once have they made the slightest concession to violence. They're an example of political commitment", he said, also evoking the ministers in exile with him in Belgium: Toni Comín, Lluís Puig, Clara Ponsatí and Meritxell Serret.
Persecution and exile
He denounced the four months of "persecution and exile, of generalised fear" which his government has suffered from the state which "arbitrarily threw" them out.
"Wanting to criminalise the independence movement they've undertaken a crazy offensive against the whole country", he said, after noting this repression has now lasted for four months, despite the PP's severe defeat at the ballot box on 21st December, leaving them with only 4 deputies in Catalonia.
The president denounced over these months, Catalonia's institutions have been ignominiously occupied by people who had no right to do so. "We're people of peace", he said, defending the peaceful demonstrations and calling for peaceful coexistence between different ways of thinking.
Full statement (in Catalan):