MADRID - The Spanish government has moved to block plans by Catalan separatists to re-elect in absentia the former regional president Carles Puigdemont, who is battling extradition from Germany to Spain.
Government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo said Wednesday the government has appealed to the Constitutional Court a recent legal reform by the separatist-dominated Catalan assembly that paved the way for electing Puigdemont.
The court will end the separatist politician's chances to be re-elected simply by accepting the case, as it is expected to.
Announcing the move after an extraordinary government cabinet meeting, Mendez de Vigo said the appeal also aims to ban regional Catalan cabinet meetings over videoconference, with members who may be overseas.
Separatists need to elect a new regional chief by May 22 or they risk going to a new regional election. Separatist parties have said in past days that they have time to come up with another candidate before the deadline.
Failure to form a new government could be disastrous for the pro-independence parties, who so far have blamed their frustrated efforts to elect candidates who were either in jail or facing charges linked to the independence bid on the central authorities and judges.
A Catalonia without an effective leader would also mean that the region's control would continue in the hands of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's conservative government.
The central Cabinet in Madrid has been managing Catalan public affairs since shortly after separatist politicians made an independence declaration six months ago based on the results of an outlawed referendum on secession.
A regional election called by Rajoy to overcome the crisis at the end of 2017 gave a narrow majority to Catalan separatist lawmakers.
In a separate development, a Spanish Supreme Court Judge on Wednesday upheld Puigdemont's indictment on rebellion and misuse of public funds, the two charges for which Spain wanted the former politician to be extradited from Germany.
Puigdemont was arrested on March 25 in northern Germany and is currently on bail in Berlin. The regional German court in charge of his case decided that the charge of rebellion did not warrant extradition because the accusation isn't punishable under German law.
Puigdemont can still be extradited on the less serious charge of misuse of funds to hold Catalonia's banned independence referendum last year.
In Wednesday's ruling, Spanish Judge Pablo Llarena also rejected the appeals of 22 other former Catalan cabinet members, lawmakers and activists who were indicted in March.