Catalan parliament to vote on new leader today

Deputy Roger Torrent, center, is congratulated after being elected as the new president of the Catalan parliament after a parliamentary session where elected lawmakers meet for the first time after regional elections in Catalonia, Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018. A new Catalan parliament is meeting following a botched secession attempt last year and amid looming questions about the role that fugitive and jailed politicians will play in the chamber’s separatist majority. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

MADRID: Catalonia’s parliament is to vote to approve a new leader of the region today (Saturday), in the fifth attempt to form a government since the last administration was fired by Madrid nearly seven months ago for declaring independence.

Former leader Carles Puigdemont, now living in Germany, put forward little-known Catalan member of parliament Quim Torra as the new candidate in a televised address published on social networks late on Thursday.

The speaker of the Catalan parliament Roger Torrent said in a statement on Friday he had proposed Torra as candidate to be regional president after consulting with political parties, and the parliament would vote on the appointment on Saturday.

The separatist movement in the wealthy northeastern region has failed to form a government despite winning most seats in a December election called by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy after Puigdemont’s secession attempt.

Time is running out to form a new administration, as the parliament must vote in a leader before May 22 or fresh elections must be called. A new election is likely to return similar results to the last, a poll showed on Friday.

All four previous candidates proposed by the pro-independence movement were blocked by the courts because they are either living abroad or being held in custody for their role in a referendum and subsequent declaration of independence.

One of the blocked candidates was Puigdemont himself, who is in Berlin waiting for a German court to rule on whether to extradite him to Spain on a charge of misuse of public funds.

Torra, a pro-independence activist with little previous political experience who has published books on the history of Catalonia, must win an absolute majority in Saturday’s vote to be elected leader.

If he does not get this backing, a simple majority in a second vote 48 hours later, on Monday, will be sufficient under Spanish electoral law.