Catalonia’s radical separatists clear way for new leader
MADRID (AP) — Catalonia’s most uncompromising separatists said Sunday that they won’t block the former leader of a pro-independence group from being elected as the restive Spanish region’s new leader.
The far-left CUP party decided that its four regional parliament members will abstain during an investiture session scheduled for Monday, which should leave another lawmaker, Quim Torra, with more “yes” than “no” votes.
Torra’s election is expected to end the Spanish government’s takeover of running Catalonia’s affairs that started with an illegal declaration of independence by the regional parliament in October.
Separatist parties maintained a slim majority in regional elections in December, but Spanish courts have blocked their previous efforts to elect two separatists in jail awaiting trial and fugitive former regional President Carles Puigdemont.
They have until May 22 to form a new government or new elections will be triggered.
Torra failed to be elected during an initial vote on Saturday, when the CUP’s abstention meant he fell short of winning the absolute majority needed to be elected on a first try. He needs fewer votes to secure the simple majority required to win a second round of balloting set for Monday.
The CUP said that while it “wouldn’t block” Torra’s election, it also won’t necessarily support his government if it does not continue Puigdemont’s open defiance of Spanish authorities and push for secession.
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 last year.
The Catalan separatist movement has caused the worst political and institutional crisis in Spain in decades.
Polls show that the wealthy region’s 7.5 million residents are evenly divided on whether Catalonia should secede from Spain.