Catalan MPs elect separatist speaker

Catalan MPs elect separatist speaker

BARCELONA - Agence France-Presse
Catalan MPs elect separatist speaker

Catalan lawmakers yesterday elected a separatist as parliamentary speaker, the first stage of a plan by pro-independence deputies to get regional leader Carles Puigdemont, in self-exile in Belgium, back into power.

As MPs met for the first time since a failed bid to break from Spain, protesters waving separatist flags gathered outside the assembly in Barcelona where pro-independence parties are in the majority after winning regional elections on December 21.

With 70 out of 135 deputies, they largely favor Puigdemont, sacked by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy along with his cabinet on October 27 after the regional parliament declared unilateral independence, as candidate for president.

Despite being in Belgium, Puigdemont wants to make a comeback and govern the deeply divided region.

For separatist lawmakers, the first step towards this was to secure control of parliament by getting one of their supporters elected as speaker.

They did precisely that yesterday, with 65 lawmakers voting for Roger Torrent, a member of the leftwing separatist ERC party, against 56 who cast their ballot for an anti-independence candidate.

Separatists will also attempt to get a majority of their supporters elected as deputy parliamentary speakers.