Spanish election authorities on Monday banned Catalonia’s former president Carles Puigdemont, who fled the country in 2017 after a secession attempt, from running in upcoming EU polls.
Puigdemont slammed the move in a tweet as a “legal scandal and a coup to democracy”.
The electoral commission decision, seen by AFP, also excludes Toni Comin, who was in Catalonia’s regional government when the secession bid happened and is now in self-exile in Belgium.
Clara Ponsati, another former Catalan minister who fled Spain and planned to run in the European Parliament elections, has been banned as well.
No reason was given as to why they were banned from running.
The commission would not comment when contacted by AFP.
Puigdemont’s party, Together for Catalonia, accused the electoral commission of wanting to “silence and push aside” Puigdemont “so that he can’t explain what he represents at the heart of European institutions.”
Puigdemont, Comin and Ponsati were all part of a push to hold an independence referendum in October 2017 in defiance of a court ban.
That sparked Spain’s deepest political crisis in decades.
The referendum in the wealthy northeastern region was followed by a short-lived declaration of independence.
Then conservative prime minister Mariano Rajoy moved in, taking direct control of the region, sacking the Catalan executive and calling snap polls.
That prompted Puigdemont and others to flee Spain.
Those Catalan leaders who remained in Spain are now on trial in Madrid over their role in the secession bid.
When he was picked last month to represent his party in the upcoming European Parliament polls, Puigdemont said: “It is time to take another step to internationalise the right to self-determination in Catalonia from the heart of Europe to the whole world.”
But Spain’s conservative Popular Party and centre-right Ciudadanos appealed his candidacy and that of the two others, prompting the election commission’s decision.
The head of the Popular Party, Pablo Casado, said on Twitter that he was “satisfied with the electoral commission’s decision.”
What Puigdemont “must do is come to Spain and appear before the courts,” he wrote.
Ines Arrimadas, head of Ciudadanos, tweeted that “if you undertake a state coup and then flee, you CANNOT represent in Europe the country where you made that coup.”
Together for Catalonia said it would “immediately deploy all forms of legal action in the Spanish state and in Europe to defend the rights of the three candidates.”
Puigdemont’s lawyer Gonzalo Boye told AFP “there is no legal obstacle (to them taking part) unless one wanted to exclude them for political reasons.”
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