After an exceptionally long meeting, Spain's Central Electoral Commission has this Friday afternoon taken the decision to remove Quim Torra from the office of president of Catalonia, and his status as a Catalan parliamentary deputy has been suspended. Torra is thus the third consecutive Catalan president to have suffered retaliation by the Spanish justice system, after Artur Mas and Carles Puigdemont.
The Central Electoral Commission (JEC), the state's principal organ responsible for electoral processes, upheld the appeal presented by the Popular Party (PP), and also in part, submissions made by the other two parties of the Spanish right, Ciudadanos (Cs) and Vox, accepting their claim that it was possible to remove the Catalan president from office even though Spain's Supreme Court has yet to consider his appeal against the sentence banning him from holding public office for 18 months, after he was convicted on a charge of disobedience before Christmas. The case against the Catalan president centred on his refusal to remove a banner calling for the release from jail of Catalan political prisoners, which he was ordered to do by the Central Electoral Commission itself.
The JEC decided to act against Torra, despite speculation circulating in Madrid this morning that it would refrain from any action before his appeal was decided, and the electoral body thus suspended the president's credentials as a member of the Parliament of Catalonia. The JEC then conveyed its order to the Provincial Electoral Commission of Barcelona so that it could be activated immediately.
In its one-and-a-half page resolution, the members of the JEC argue that Torra's disqualification from holding public office by the High Court of Catalonia, although still pending appeal, constitutes a "case of subsequent ineligibility" under article 6.2 of Spain's Electoral Law (LOREG).
The JEC made the decision in response to petitions by the PP, Cs and Vox after the High Court of Catalonia sentenced the president to 18 months of disqualification on 19th December for disobedience.
With its decision, the central electoral body reverses the ruling of the provincial commission for Barcelona, which on December 24th concluded that Torra could not lose his status as a parliamentary deputy until the Spanish Supreme Court had resolved his appeal. The decision was not unanimous, with dissent from one member.
PP, Cs and Vox argued in their appeal to the JEC that article 6.2 of Spain's Electoral Law (LOREG) implied that Torra should be removed from his position of deputy, which would also mean that he should to cease to be president of the Generalitat of Catalonia, as Catalonia's Statute of Autonomy binds the position of president to his seat in Parliament. The argument is based on situations involving terrorism and extremely serious crimes: Article 6.2 of the LOREG states that those convicted of a crime, whether it has exhausted its appeal process or not, for crimes of rebellion, terrorism, against the Public Administration or against state institutions, are "ineligible".
The JEC, Spain's chief electoral body, consists of 13 members with voting rights, of whom eight are Supreme Court judges chosen by General Council of the Judiciary and five are active law or social science academics proposed by political parties and elected by the Spanish parliament.