Catalan leader nominates political newcomer for president


Catalonia's parliament has failed to elect a regional president by absolute majority, in its fifth attempt to form a new government in the northern Spanish region.

Speaking from hi self-exile in Berlin, Mr Puigdemont, pointed to Catalan lawmaker Quim Torra as a strong candidate to take on the role of regional president.

Since December, the Catalan Parliament already four times could not form a government.

The Spanish government says it won't relinquish its administrative control over Catalonia until its leaders respect Spain's Constitution, which says Spain is "indivisible". The Spanish judiciary has twice blocked Puigdemont's attempts to face an investiture session from afar, as well as the candidacies of Jordi Turull and Jordi Sànchez, both of who are in prison.

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.

The government also issued a statement calling Torra's speech divisive and accusing Puigdemont, in naming his successor, "of making first the interests of an individual rather than the general interest of all citizens".

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It remains highly likely that Torra will clinch the position in Monday's second vote.

Puigdemont is overseas in self-exile and faces jail if he returns, while other candidates such as civic leader Jordi Sanchez are in prison, charged with rebellion for their role in the independence drive. No date has been set for a vote in the Catalan parliament, where separatist parties have a slender majority.

Catalonia has been in political limbo since December previous year when pro-independence parties won early elections called by the central government.

Puigdemont fled Spain last fall after the declaration of independence, which went unrecognized internationally. The wealthy, populous region has since been administered by the central government. Puigdemont was the president of Catalonia from January 2016 to October 2017.

Oriol Bartomeus, politics professor at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, told AFP that Torra had in his career shown "a pretty clear inclination towards the sector of the independence movement that is not really in favour of political normalisation".