Country Risk

Election of Catalan president likely to lead to partial stability, but conflict will remain unresolved

17 May 2018

Key Points

  • Quim Torra’s election as Catalan president will enable the central government to cease its application of Article 155 of the constitution restricting the region’s political autonomy, but the Spanish government will retain control of Catalan finances.
  • Ongoing legal cases related to the independence referendum of October 2017 will probably trigger mass street protests from October 2018.


After more than six months without a government, pro-independence MP Quim Torra was elected president of Catalonia on 14 May; the suspension of Catalan autonomy by Article 155 of the constitution is expected to be lifted within the next week, once a Catalan government is formed.New Catalan President Quim Torra (left) and former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont in Berlin, Germany, 15 May 2018. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)New Catalan President Quim Torra (left) and former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont in Berlin, Germany, 15 May 2018. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

On 14 May, hardline secessionist Quim Torra was elected as the 131st president of Catalonia by 66 to 65 votes. After four failed attempts to elect a president, the pro-independence parties in parliament managed to swear in Torra, chosen by former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont as his successor. Despite holding an election in December 2017, Catalonia had not been able to elect a new president in a context characterised by the suspension of the region’s autonomy and the jailing of, and issuance of European arrest warrants for, pro-independence Catalan politicians on rebellion and sedition charges.

In parliament, President Torra claimed that the true president was Puigdemont and vowed to pursue the goals of the Catalan republic declared last October. Torra also announced that he was willing to restore the MPs of the deposed government, all of whom are either in jail or in self-exile. Torra has offered to appoint them again as they are not yet barred from public office. If any of the deposed MPs were to agree to take office again, they would appoint a parallel commissioner who would act from Catalonia and would replace the MP once they were formally charged and thus barred from public office.

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