AN extraordinary session of Spain’s Constitutional Court (TC) will be held this afternoon to decide if Carles Puigdemont’s bid to be installed as president of Catalonia is legal.

The Spanish government also demanded that the court suspend the Catalan Parliament’s plenary session on Tuesday, in which the investiture debate will be held, if Puigdemont remains the presidential candidate.

Their moves came after Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy ignored advice he had sought from the Council of State – which said the deposed president’s candidacy did not break the law.

As tensions escalated between Madrid and the Catalan capital Barcelona, Spain’s government yesterday appealed to the TC to block Puigdemont’s bid.

He fled to Belgium in October to avoid arrest for his involvement in the Catalan Parliament’s declaration of independence.

He is facing charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds in connection with the bid and would be arrested should he return to Catalonia. Rajoy claims he cannot be sworn in because he faces detention and he could not rule in absentia.

“The government must use every tool made available by the laws and the constitution to make sure that a fugitive cannot be sworn in and become the head of the regional government,” said Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria.

However, Puigdemont and his supporters are adamant that he could be installed from abroad, possibly by Skype, and could rule from afar, which has won him the nickname “the hologram president”.

His reaction on social media to the latest Spanish move was immediate: “They are panicking in the face of the will of the people.”

In defiance of Madrid’s warnings, the new Catalan Parliament Speaker Roger Torrent nominated Puigdemont on Monday as the sole candidate for president.

He accused the Spanish executive yesterday of trying “to suspend” democracy but would not be drawn on his parliament’s reaction to it.

“When we have a formal TC response, we will work on the legal and political response to this situation,” he said. “The challenge does not have any legal basis and that is what every citizen knows that has minimal notions of law and the Council of State knows it.

“Therefore, the challenge is a law fraud that attacks against the voters, the deputies, against parliamentary democracy and the basic foundations of the parliamentary system.

“This is a reality that cannot be suspended. Democracy cannot be suspended.”

MPs from Together for Catalonia (JxCat), including Puigdemont, have submitted papers to the court challenging Madrid’s arguments against the legality of his bid for the presidency. Magistrates sitting with the TC president, Juan José González Rivas, will study the Spanish government’s claim against Puigdemont’s candidacy.

Puigdemont – who attended meetings at the Danish parliament earlier this week – has not ruled out travelling to Barcelona to take part in Tuesday’s investiture debate. But neither has he said he will attend.

The Spanish government yesterday again stepped up security at Catalan border crossing points and ports and airports – concerned that Puigdemont makes a laughing stock of the security services.

Their suspicions were aroused when the JxCat leader and four sacked ministers who are with him in Belgium withdrew applications for proxy votes in Tuesday’s debate.

As Guardia Civil officers examined sewers around the Catalan Parliament building, Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido said security forces were closely following Puigdemont’s movements to stop him “crossing the border in helicopter, by boat or in the trunk of a car”.

Zoido said: “We are going to make sure that he does not enter.”