Radical Catalan separatist anointed by ousted president as successor

Posted May 14, 2018

Separatist allies announced on Saturday they would try to have Puigdemont, now in Germany after being detained there in March on a European arrest warrant, re-appointed as president by next week after the regional parliament voted through reforms allowing him to take the role without being present.

Catalonia's parliament will vote to approve a new leader of the region on Saturday, in the fifth attempt to form a government since the last administration was sacked by Madrid almost seven months ago for declaring independence. In the event, pro-independence parties retained their slim majority in the Catalan parliament and a new government will have to decide whether to pursue another collision course with Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

Exiled former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont renounced his candidacy for the regional presidency on Thursday, suggesting in his stead a politician who is acceptable to Madrid.

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.

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

Catalan lawmakers should choose a leader to form a government by may 22.

Mr Torra, vice-president of the activist group Omnium Cultural - whose leader, Jordi Cuixart, has been in preventative prison since October - is the so-called "Plan D" candidate after three previous inauguration attempts were blocked by the Spanish courts.

"We need a really strong government and a really strong country, Catalonia right now faces a monumental challenge", the 55-year-old father-of-three told Catalan television TV3 on Friday.

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Torra is a newcomer to politics.

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

Catalonia is Spain's richest and most populous region.

Who is Carles Puigdemont? .

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But a German court rejected extraditing him on that charge, judging that rebellion implies violence, and ruling that Puigdemont was not personally involved in violent acts during the referendum.