Spats, alleged spitting, expulsion in Spain's parliament as debate boils over
Catalan left party ERC's parliamentary spokesman Gabriel Rufian (C) gestures as Spanish Foreign Affair Minister Josep Borrell (unseen) delivers a speech during the weekly Spanish Government's question time session at Lower Chamber of Parliament in Madrid, Spain, Nov. 21, 2018. EPA-EFE/JAVIER LIZON
Spanish Foreign Affairs Minister Josep Borrell (R) looks at Catalan left party ERC's parliamentary spokesman Gabriel Rufian (C) after Rufian was ejected from the session for interrupting the speech of Borrell several times during the weekly Spanish Government's question time session at Lower Chamber of Parliament in Madrid, Spain, Nov. 21, 2018. EPA-EFE/JAVIER LIZON
Spanish Justice Minister Dolores Delgado (R), tries to calm down Foreign Affairs Minister Josep Borrell (L), as Borrell reacts at a gesture made by Catalan left party ERC's MP Jordi Salvador (unseen) while the ERC's MPs leave the Chamber as Gabriel Rufian (unseen), the ERC's parliamentary spokesman, is expelled from the session for interrupting the speech of Borrell during the weekly Spanish Government's question time session at Lower Chamber of Parliament in Madrid, Spain, Nov. 21, 2018. EPA-EFE/JAVIER LIZON
Madrid, Nov 21 (efe-epa).- A pro-Catalan independence lawmaker was ejected from the Spanish parliament Wednesday for causing a ruckus and breaching parliamentary norms during a heated debate with the foreign minister who complained of having been spat at.
Gabriel Rufian, an outspoken member of the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) in the lower chamber triggered the fracas by calling Spain's top diplomat and fellow Catalan Josep Borrell a fascist and demanding he step down after describing him as the most undignified minister in the history of Spanish democracy.
"Once again he has dumped on this chamber that mixture of sawdust and manure which is the only thing he is capable of producing," Borrell, a member of the Socialist Party government, retorted to applause in the Madrid-based chamber.
Rufian then got to his feet to sarcastically applaud the foreign minister and was called to order by the parliamentary speaker, Ana Pastor.
Pastor repeatedly requested that the 36-year-old lawmaker return to his seat and warned if he was called to order three times he would be asked to leave the chamber as per parliamentary rules.
Rufian gestured to the chamber with his arms outstretched before sitting down with his colleagues, from where he continued to verbally interrupt proceedings.
Pastor called for order twice more before sternly ejecting the Catalan lawmaker from the chamber.
All nine members of the ERC in Congress left the chamber but the drama took another turn when one of the departing members allegedly spat at Borrell as he neared the exit.
Borrell immediately gestured toward the supposed culprit and later spoke to reporters about the incident.
"I'm not going to go into detail about the spitting, he turned and spat at me," he said following the controversial session, although he fell short of naming the alleged offender.
Footage from Congress showed Borrell pointing towards Jordi Salvador when the alleged incident occurred.
Speaking to EFE, Salvador denied spitting at Borrell but acknowledged he had made a sound with his lips on his way out of the chamber.
Parliament said it would examine the allegations and did not rule out possible sanctions against the lawmaker.
The heated exchange began when Rufian took exception to the use of the word "golpista" ("coup backer"), which is commonly used as a pejorative term by unionist political parties, such as the center-right Ciudadanos, against regional pro-independence from Catalonia, especially in the wake of the abortive separatist referendum and its subsequent unilateral declaration of independence in Oct. 2017.
Both were annulled by Spain's judiciary and several influential Catalan figures, including the former regional president, Carles Puigdemont, and his vice-president, Oriol Junqueras of the ERC, were either in exile or in prison facing charges of rebellion.
"Mr. Borrell, if you came to the plenary sessions, you would know what we are talking about. Every time the Ciudadanos parliamentary group call us coup backers, I remind them of the bullet holes in this ceiling," Rufian said, in reference to damage left in the wake of an attempted coup led by members of the Civil Guard in 1981 as Spain made its transition from dictatorship under Francisco Franco to democracy.
"And I will call them fascists," he said. "That said, the truth is for some time I have wanted to tell you this: you are the most undignified minister in Spanish democratic history, you are not a minister, you are a hooligan, a militant from the Sociedad Civil Catalana, a shame on your parliamentary group because it is a far-right organization."
Spain's mainstream political parties have unanimously condemned Rufian's behavior.