surinenglish

Catalan parliament takes first step towards defiantly reappointing Carles Puigdemont

New speaker, Roger Torrent, reviewing regional police officers in Barcelona on Wednesday.
New speaker, Roger Torrent, reviewing regional police officers in Barcelona on Wednesday. / REUTERS
  • Regional MPs have voted in a separatist speaker, which clears the way for the ex-president to possibly stand again and run the government

Members of the regional parliament in Catalonia met for the first time on Wednesday since the suspension of some devolved powers by Madrid last October and the regional election in December.

The session this week was the first stage in the process of the regional parliament voting on a new president of the Catalan government. Wednesday's initial meeting involved the election of the new speaker of the 135-seat chamber.

With no one party with overall control, the sum of all the pro-independence parties is 70 MPs, a slim majority.

However with three of those MPs in jail and denied bail over possible rebellion charges connected to October's illegal declaration of Catalan independence, and a further five in self-imposed exile in Brussels, it wasn't clear beforehand from what party the new speaker would come from.

In the end, the three MPs held in Madrid were allowed to submit a proxy vote and with the help of votes from the nonaligned MPs of left-wing Catalunya en Comú, affiliated to Podemos, a secessionist speaker was appointed.

39-year-old Roger Torrent is from the pro-republic ERC party. MPs then went on to vote for the committee of seven MPs that decides day-to-day parliamentary business. Here, as expected, pro-independence parties took a majority.

The new speaker now faces the dilemma of how to organise the debate over and investiture of a new president of the Catalan government.

Carles Puigdemont, former president, is in Belgium having fled there to avoid arrest.

Puigdemont's parliamentary group, Junts per Catalunya, seemed fairly certain this week that pro-independence MPs would support the reelection of their leader via video-call link, although some voices in ERC, the second-biggest separatist party, are still calling for him to step aside and allow Catalonia to regain all its devolved powers from Madrid.

Torrent, the new speaker was praised by pro-Spain opposition parties for the moderate tone of his inaugural speech on Wednesday.

Meanwhile central government showed no signs of compromise if Puigdemont tries to be invested via Skype.

Madrid said on Thursday that “it would do everything necessary” to stop it taking place.

Catalan MPs now have just under two months to choose their new regional government president.