After all the dust has settled (at least after the most recent assaults on Catalan sovereignty by Madrid), despite the best efforts by Madrid to force and/or convince Catalans to reject independence, it seems the Catalans have not only continue to embrace independence, they are set to re-elect the leaders now in exile for fear of being arrested by Madrid operatives and charged with treason.
The question asked here is this, can these exiled leaders of the independence movement lead from a remote location? The tl:dr answer is yes, yes they can, and it’s called Skype.
On Tuesday, the victorious parties agreed to once again elect Puigdemont as regional president. The problem is if he sets foot in Spain, he will be arrested. Traditionally, the leader would appear in person in parliament present himself and his program for a vote. But Puigdemont’s backers say there’s no reason he can’t do that through a delegate or via Skype. But the issue isn’t just his swearing-in. Given that Spain is unlikely to drop the charges against Puigdemont any time soon, he’ll have to keep governing via Skype and email indefinitely.
His opponents, not surprisingly, find this ridiculous. “It’s evident that for governing Catalonia you have to be in Catalonia, you can’t do that via WhatsApp or as a hologram,” said Ines Arrimadas, leader of the anti-independence Ciutadans party.
Nowadays, political leaders can do a large percentage of their jobs without being present. In 2010, when Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg was stranded in New York by the Icelandic volcano eruption, his government publicized the fact that the was continuing to do his job remotely on a just-introduced device called an iPad.
But governing is more than just communicating with colleagues or even giving speeches. Catalonia is a politically divided region facing its most serious political crisis in decades, a crisis that—whether or not you support independence—he’s largely responsible for creating. Those who are already skeptical of the risky course he’s put the region on are not likely to be mollified by a president on the run from the law who exists in his home region as only a spectral, digital presence.
Perhaps the government should invest in one of those telepresence robots Edward Snowden uses to get around.