Catalonia′s new parliament meets following failed independence bid | News | DW | 17.01.2018
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Catalonia's new parliament meets following failed independence bid

The newly elected Catalan parliament has met after a failed attempt at secession from Spain last year. The question remains whether sacked leader Carles Puigdemont will be allowed to present himself for re-election.

The new Catalan parliament convened for the first time on Wednesday following last month's elections. Questions about the region's future loomed large as several imprisoned lawmakers were unable to attend the session.

Read more: Catalan independence – What you need to know

Yellow ribbons symbolizing a protest against Spain's judicial probe over last year's failed secession attempt were placed on the empty seats of absent independence lawmakers.

Making way for the leader

Pro-independence parties won a slim majority in the 135-seat assembly during the December elections and used their majority to elect a separatist as parliamentary speaker. Left-wing ERC party member Roger Torrent was elected in a 65-56 vote.

"I want democracy and coexistence to be the foundations of this term," said Torrent, who was elected to head the assembly's governing committee, which plays an instrumental role in deciding who leads the regional government.

Secessionist lawmakers have a clear majority in the committee, with four of its seven members hailing from pro-independence parties. It may be able to interpret parliamentary rules to allow Puigdemont to rule from his self-imposed exile in Brussels.

Roger Torrent is congratulated after being elected new parliament speaker of the Catalan parliament

Pro-independence politician Roger Torrent was elected the regional parliament's speaker

'The spirit of free people'

The election of the governing committee was the first step in a plan by pro-independence lawmakers to place ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont back in power.

Puigdemont has suggested he could govern Catalonia via video conference, including using an app called Skype. The idea has been dismissed by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and the Catalan parliament's lawyers.

Read moreSpain's King Felipe VI urges Catalan leaders to avoid new confrontation

Catalonia's former leader on Wednesday harshly criticized Spanish authorities on Twitter as the regional parliament convened. "We will show them that there is nothing that can bend the spirit of free people," he wrote while tweeting a video that showed a police crackdown on voters who took part in an outlawed independence referendum in October last year.

Jailed lawmakers seek voting rights

Three of the assembly's lawmakers are currently in jail on charges relating to Catalonia's failed independence bid last year. On Wednesday, they sought permission from the regional parliament to allow them to cast proxy votes with the help of colleagues.

Besides Puigdemont, four other re-elected Catalan lawmakers are in Brussels and face legal hurdles to participating in parliamentary business.

Rajoy's government dissolved Catalonia's regional parliament and called the December vote after the regional lawmakers declared unilateral independence following an October referendum that was ruled illegal.

ls, rs/kms (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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