Spain’s Supreme Court has barred Catalonia’s regional president from office for 18 months, adding a further dose of instability to a country immersed in its worst economic crisis in living memory.
Joaquim Torra was found guilty of disobeying a court order to remove pro-independence symbols from Catalan public buildings in a “repeated, stubborn and
obstinate” manner, according to the ruling released on Monday.
The decision has deep ramifications for the whole of Spain since Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez is seeking support from Torra’s separatist allies in order to pass a budget he needs to rebuild an economy hit harder by the coronavirus pandemic than any other in Europe.
The ruling is likely to inflame sentiment among pro-independence voters and make it politically costly for their representatives to do a deal with Sanchez in Madrid.
Torra’s deputy, Pere Aragones, will become interim president, with limited powers. But the Catalan Parliament is also racked by political divisions and may struggle to agree on a permanent successor.
If it fails to appoint a new leader within two months, the region will be heading
for a snap election, likely in February.
Torra became president in 2018 after former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont fled Spain to avoid being
imprisoned over the botched push for independence in 2017. Puigdemont picked Torra, previously a little known activist with minimal political experience, to take over.