Spain is boosting its cybersecurity preparedness and ramping up its efforts to fight the spread of disinformation ahead of national elections this weekend. The April 28 general election in Spain may act as a testing ground for measures to protect the integrity of the European Parliament elections in late May, the Associated Press reports. Europe-wide election security efforts include a “rapid alert system” linking specialized coordination units across all EU member states, as well as a plan to get internet firms to team up and share intelligence on disinformation campaigns. The Spanish government has tasked a division of its National Cybersecurity Institute, or INCIBE, to coordinate defenses against cyber-attacks and combat fake news. A national security report released in March described a rising tide of disinformation amid a myriad of “hybrid threats”, some stemming from international political intrigue. Allegations of foreign interference in Spain have centered on events around Catalonia’s highly contentious independence referendum back in October 2017. Allegations of cyber-spying have also been a factor in a number of domestic cases. “Espionage is now a huge issue in Spain because of three different scandals: these are the Villarejo case, the Pablo Iglesias case, and the Catalan independence protest,” Joe Haslam, a professor at the IE Business School in Madrid and executive director and chairman of hot.es, a mobile hotel booking app, told The Daily Swig. “The spooks are active, but little attention is being paid to threats from outside Spain.”
Articles about voting issues in the Kingdom of Spain.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez on Tuesday called on all political forces in the country to back a new national cybersecurity fight against “attempts to hack democracy and undermine citizens’ trust in the political system.” Spain’s April 28 general election is seen as a testing ground for new measures that the European Union is adopting to shield elections to the European Parliament a month later. The Europe-wide efforts include a “rapid alert system” linking specialized coordination units in all EU member states and require internet companies to share regular updates on their efforts to eradicate disinformation campaigns. Spain joined the Europe-wide initiative in early March, establishing a high-level unit to coordinate the fight against cyberattacks and fake news. The experts report directly to Sánchez, who on Tuesday equated disinformation to attacks on “the quality of democracy.” “We need to protect Europe in order for Europe to be able to protect its citizens,” the Socialist leader said during a visit to the national cybersecurity institute, or INCIBE, in the northern province of León. Sánchez also called for new cybersecurity guidelines that are currently being designed to be backed by all national parties, regardless of who wins the upcoming election.
Spain looks set for a snap general election — or slow agony for Pedro Sánchez. The Socialist prime minister had his 2019 budget plans rejected by parliament on Wednesday, prompting his office to say that on Friday he’ll announce if there will be an early ballot — which could be as soon as April. Catalan pro-independence lawmakers joined forces with the right-of-center opposition to defeat the budget proposal — paving the way for an electoral test that polls predict Sánchez will win but fall short of being able to put together a coalition. The news follows days of speculation about election dates, ranging from April 14 and 28 to May 26. The latter has already been dubbed “Super Sunday” because it would coincide with European, regional and local ballots.
Spain’s minority Socialist government plans to announce an early general election after its expected defeat in a budget vote on Wednesday following its refusal to negotiate Catalan self-determination, political sources said on Tuesday. Two small Catalan pro-independence parties, on whose votes the government has been relying to pass legislation, have so far maintained their blanket rejection of the budget. They said they were open to negotiate until the budget vote if the government promised them a dialogue on the right to self-determination, but that right is prohibited by the Spanish constitution.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s budget plans are threatening to unravel amid reports that he’s considering calling a snap election for April. After his conservative rivals staged a show of strength by bringing tens of thousands of demonstrators onto the streets of Madrid, Efe news agency reported that Sanchez is considering calling elections for April 14. A press officer for the premier said the government is focused on getting its budget passed this week. Protesters in the heart of the Spanish capital on Sunday were demanding an election and accused the prime minister of being soft in talks with Catalan separatists. They waved Spanish flags and shouted “Long Live the Constitution, Long Live Spain.”
The footsteps of a snap election have been getting louder in Spain amid the country’s socialist minority government’s unrequited efforts to find necessary support from other political parties in Parliament for the government’s 2019 budget. Jose Luis Abalos, the minister of public works in Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s administration, said in a meeting Monday in Madrid that early general elections cannot be ruled out as “one of their options” and may be held on the same day as municipal, regional and European elections on May 26, 2019. “You can’t venture anything, between now and May there is a lot of time,” he said.
Tens of thousands of Catalans congregated in Barcelona on Monday to mark the first anniversary of the region’s unilateral and illegal independence referendum as groups of pro-independence activists blocked roads, motorways and a high-speed rail line and surrounded the Catalan parliament. Police in the city estimated that about 180,000 people took part in a rally in the city on Monday evening. Tensions flared between police and protesters as some hardline demonstrators jumped over barriers at the entrance to the parliament. There were similar scenes outside the Barcelona headquarters of Spain’s national police. Crowds of students filled the city’s central square on Monday afternoon, waving yellow, red and blue separatist flags and chanting “1 October, no forgiving, no forgetting”. Nearby, others let off smoke bombs and fireworks.
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez dropped his pledge to call an early election in Spain less than three weeks after taking office. In his first interview since ousting Mariano Rajoy with a no-confidence vote on June 1, 46-year-old Sanchez said he aims to see out the final two years of the parliamentary term. “I plan to call elections in 2020, and so to see out the legislature,” Sanchez told state television broadcaster TVE Monday. “After the confidence motion, we need a period of time to get back to normal before calling an election.”
Spain has a new prime minister after a parliamentary vote Friday led to the ousting of incumbent Mariano Rajoy. Speaking to the Spanish parliament just before the vote, Rajoy said he would accept the result and wanted to be the first to congratulate the leader of the opposition Socialist Party, Pedro Sanchez, as his successor. A long-running corruption trial — known as the Gurtel case — found dozens of people linked to Rajoy’s governing People’s Party (PP) guilty of benefiting from illegal kickbacks. That prompted Sanchez to push for a vote of no-confidence against Rajoy.
Lawmakers in Catalonia elected a fervent separatist as the new chief of the restive region Monday, ending a leadership vacuum of more than six months and setting the scene for more confrontations with the Spanish government. Quim Torra, a former corporate lawyer who went on to lead a prominent pro-secession group, vowed to build an independent Catalan republic by working under the leadership of his fugitive predecessor, Carles Puigdemont. Puigdemont is in Germany fighting extradition to Spain, where he is wanted for allegedly using public funds and orchestrating an “insurrection” to get the wealthy northeastern region around Barcelona to break away from Spain. Torra was elected 66-65 in a second round vote after he failed to secure an absolute majority in the 135-strong Catalan Parliament over the weekend. Four lawmakers with the far-left anti-establishment CUP party abstained.
Plans by Catalan separatists to re-elect their region’s former president in absentia were blocked Wednesday by Spain’s Constitutional Court. The court agreed to consider the Spanish government’s challenge of a legal change approved by Catalonia’s separatist-dominated parliament that paved the way for Carles Puigdemont’s election while he fights extradition from Germany to Spain. By accepting the case, the court effectively ended Puigdemont’s chances of being re-elected to the post the Spanish government removed him from in October. A ruling will take months, but pro-independence parties in Catalonia need to elect a new chief by May 22 or risk the calling of a new election.
The former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, whose push for regional independence plunged Spain into its worst political crisis for 40 years, has abandoned his attempt to return to office and is stepping aside in favour of a candidate who is currently in prison. Puigdemont used a 13-minute video shared on social media on Thursday night to confirm reports he was no longer seeking the presidency. He said that “with the greatest sadness” he had informed the speaker of the Catalan parliament that he was unable to retake the post and that an alternative candidate should be chosen.
Catalonia’s parliament speaker on Tuesday postponed a session intended to re-elect the region’s fugitive ex-president, saying the planned meeting would not take place until there were guarantees Spanish authorities “won’t interfere.” The decision comes after Spain’s top court ruled Saturday that Carles Puigdemont, who has fled to Belgium and faces arrest if he returns, could only be re-elected if physically present in the parliament in Barcelona. The court also ordered that he must obtain permission to appear at parliament from the judge investigating him over Catalonia’s independence bid. Puigdemont is one of more than a dozen Catalan political figures facing possible rebellion and sedition charges following the previous parliament’s illegal and unsuccessful declaration of independence in October, which brought Spain’s worst political crisis in decades to a head. The decision leaves the future government of the prosperous region in something of a limbo.
Spain’s top court said Saturday that Catalonia’s fugitive ex-president must return to the country and be present in the regional parliament to receive the authority to form a new government. The Constitutional Court ruled that a session of Catalonia’s parliament scheduled for Tuesday would be suspended if former leader Carles Puigdemont tries to be re-elected without being physically present in the chamber. The court also said that Puigdemont must seek judicial authorization to attend the session. Catalonia’s separatist lawmakers have been considering voting Puigdemont back in as regional chief without him returning from Belgium, weighing options that included another parliament member standing in for him or him addressing the lawmakers via video.
A new report says that Russian hacking operations to support Catalonian independence continue and could intensify. The Spanish Defense Ministry’s Center for Strategic and Defense Studies published the report this week. It says Russia is destabilizing Spain as tensions grow in the northeastern region. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy hoped to ease tensions by holding local elections last month. Instead, the voting returned the pro-independence majority to the regional parliament. In another protest of the Spanish government, the party then nominated exiled leader Carles Puigdemont as president. Spanish defense minister Maria Dolores Cospedal, as well as EU and NATO officials, have expressed suspicion about Russian interference in Catalonia.
Catalonia’s new parliament on Wednesday elected a pro-secession speaker, virtually guaranteeing that the push for independence for Spain’s northeastern region will continue as its lawmakers prepare to elect a new government. The opening session of the new Catalan assembly came amid looming questions about the role that fugitive and jailed politicians will play within the chamber’s separatist majority and the future regional government. Ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, who fled to Belgium in October dodging a Spanish judicial probe over a foiled secession attempt, wants to be reinstated to his old job. But he faces arrest if he returns to Spain and legal hurdles if he wants to be voted in from abroad by the regional assembly.
Spain: Madrid to maintain direct rule if self-exiled Catalan separatist reelected: Prime Minister | Reuters
Spain rejected as absurd suggestions that Catalan separatist Carles Puigdemont could lead the region from exile if elected president by the new Catalan parliament, and said if he were chosen Madrid would maintain direct central rule. Puigdemont fled to Brussels in October after Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy fired him as Catalonia’s leader for declaring an independent republic following an illegal referendum. He faces arrest and possibly decades in jail if he returns to Spain. With only days before Catalonia’s parliament convenes to elect a new regional government, separatists said Puigdemont was their candidate to lead the region again. They are exploring the possibility he could do so by video link from Brussels.
Catalonia’s two main separatist parties have agreed to support the re-election of ousted leader Carles Puigdemont as president, in a sign that pro-independence groups are eager to ratchet up the tension with Spain’s central government. The separatists’ agreement is the first significant step toward forming a new government in the restive Spanish region following regional elections Dec. 21. That vote was called after Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy imposed direct rule on the region in October in an attempt to quell the separatists’ push to secede from Spain. When a new and law-abiding government is seated in Catalonia, Madrid has said it would end direct rule.
Spain’s King Felipe VI has urged Catalan leaders to respect their region’s diversity and avoid another confrontation over independence in a Christmas speech. Felipe’s remarks on Sunday came three days after separatist parties in Catalonia, led by ousted president Carles Puigdemont, won an absolute majority of seats in a parliamentary vote. The wealthy north-eastern region’s newly elected parliament must “face the problems that affect all Catalans, with respect to plurality and bearing in mind their responsibility to the common good”, the monarch said. “The road cannot lead again to confrontation and exclusion, which as we already know generate nothing but discord, uncertainty and discouragement.” Spain’s central government called the election after sacking Puigdemont’s cabinet, dissolving the Catalan parliament and stripping the region of its treasured autonomy following an independence declaration on 27 October.
Catalonia’s separatists look set to regain power in the wealthy Spanish region after local elections on Thursday, deepening the nation’s political crisis in a sharp rebuke to Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and European Union leaders who backed him. With nearly all votes counted, separatist parties won a slim majority in Catalan parliament, a result that promises to prolong political tensions which have damaged Spain’s economy and prompted a business exodus from the region. Rajoy, who called the elections after sacking the previous secessionist government, had hoped Catalonia’s “silent majority” would deal separatism a decisive blow in what was a de facto independence referendum, but his hard line backfired.