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Catalan lawmakers to convene March 12 to appoint leader

AFP , Tuesday 6 Mar 2018
Yellow ribbons are seen on the seats of jailed Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) leader Oriol Junqueras (R) and former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont during a session in Catalonia's regional parliament in Barcelona, Spain, March 1, 2018 (Photo: Reuters)
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Catalonia's parliament will convene on March 12 to appoint a new regional president, with jailed separatist Jordi Sanchez the only candidate, the assembly said Tuesday.

In a statement, the separatist-controlled parliament said its speaker Roger Torrent had on Tuesday morning officially convened the session.

Sanchez, the former head of the Catalan National Assembly, a powerful pro-independence civil group, is considered to have little chance of taking up the post since he is remanded in custody pending accusations of sedition over last year's secession bid.

His name was put forward after former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, who had initially been picked as candidate to lead the region again after December regional polls but is in exile in Belgium, pulled out last week.

On Tuesday, Sanchez's lawyers asked the Supreme Court, which is overseeing his case, to let him out of prison to go to parliament next week for the official appointment.

But even if a judge allows him out, he is not assured of getting enough votes to see him through.

He has the support of two separatist groupings which together have 66 lawmakers out of 135. The small, separatist CUP party, which has four seats, has refused to back him and will abstain.

Of the 66 though, Puigdemont and another separatist lawmaker are in Belgium, which means that in theory they cannot take part in parliamentary votes, reducing the number of lawmakers in support of Sanchez to 64.

The parties that are against independence, meanwhile, have a total of 65 lawmakers combined, which means they could block Sanchez's appointment.

The separatists' push for independence plunged Spain into political crisis last year.

The Spanish government imposed direct rule over the region on October 27 after the Catalan parliament unilaterally declared independence.

Direct rule is due to last until the region elects a new president. Madrid has vowed to resist any bid to break the region away from Spain.

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