The Catalan parliament will meet on Monday, 12 March, to formally debate for the first time since last December's elections who should be the next president of the regional government.
Last Thursday, 1 March, the ousted ex-president, Carles Puigdemont, announced that he was stepping aside to try to unlock the political deadlock. Puigdemont, although leader of Junts per Catalunya, the largest group of separatist regional MPs, is in self-imposed exile in Belgium and faces arrest if he returns to Spain for his part in the alleged rebellion linked to last October's declaration of Catalan independence.
In one of his now familiar video messages, he said that he was stepping aside in favour of Jordi Sànchez as candidate to be Catalan president.
Sànchez, (see panel), was number two for Junts per Catalunya on the electoral list in the December election, and therefore the natural choice as alternative to be president. However Sánchez is currently held in jail outside Madrid as part of the same ongoing rebellion and sedition investigation. While Puigdemont went to Belgium, Sànchez was one of the leaders of the Catalan nationalist movement that stayed in Spain and was arrested for fear that he might continue to offend.
Top courts rule on legality
Technically Sànchez is in a better position to be candidate for the regional presidency than Puigdemont, as he is still in Spain and, as he is only in jail as a preventative measure and hasn't been tried, is still entitled to be a Catalan MP. On Tuesday, Sànchez asked to be released to attend the debate and vote next Monday, saying his continued detention was affecting his human rights and interfering with the running of the Catalan government, which still has some of its autonomous powers suspended by Madrid. The Constitutional Court quickly said no to the request and the Supreme Court is due to give its separate decision on the request on Monday, the same day that Sànchez is due in Barcelona.
Radical separatist party, CUP, has said it won't support a Sànchez candidacy as he has recently promised a judge to work for independence within the law. Its votes are needed for the investiture, and on Thursday the other separatist parties presented a radical plan for government to CUP in an effort to get it to change its mind ahead of Monday.