Published: Tue, May 15, 2018
Global Media | By Garry Long

Catalan separatists aim to elect new regional president

Catalan separatists aim to elect new regional president

They also say the rebellion charge against him and others is disproportionate, and describe those already in jail in Spain - like former Catalan vice president Oriol Junqueras - as "political prisoners". He tapped Catalan lawmaker Quim Torra to take the helm, urging parliament to confirm him as regional president.

They include the heads of Catalonia's two largest pro-independence groups - Jordi Sanchez of the ANC and Jordi Cuixart of Omnium Jordi Cuixart.

Torra, addressing MPs on Saturday, said he was committed to turning Catalonia into a republic even after the region's failed independence effort in October.

Madrid successfully requested the Constitutional Court to cancel a reform voted for last week by Catalonia's majority separatist parliament that would allow Puigdemont - now in self-exile overseas - to be appointed president without having to be present.

The former Catalan president has called on the regional parliament to elect his party's deputy to lead the legislature.

Torra, an outspoken Catalan nationalist, was hand-picked by Puigdemont, who is in Germany awaiting extradition to Spain on charges of rebellion and misuse of public funds in an illegal referendum on independence held a year ago. He needs fewer votes to secure the simple majority required to win a second round of balloting set for Monday.

That day, Rajoy also sacked Puigdemont and all his ministers after the regional parliament declared independence following a referendum that wasn't sanctioned by Madrid and was banned by the courts.

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After Madrid imposed direct rule on the region, Mr Puigdemont and many members of his government were arrested or fled the country.

Regional elections were held in December, which separatist parties won, but every leadership candidate picked by the separatist camp since has fallen flat.

Who is Quim Torra?

There are now 70 lawmakers in the regional parliament who are pro-independence, against 65 who are not.

Torra, 55, gave a combative speech during Saturday's debate.

"ERC wants to execute a "moderate shift" to keep secessionist politicians out of legal troubles, avoid direct rule by Madrid, and try to garner long-term support for independence".

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