May 10, 2018 / 6:36 PM / 14 days ago

Catalan ex-head proposes new candidate for regional leader

MADRID (Reuters) - Former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont on Thursday proposed member of parliament Quim Torra as candidate for head of the Catalan government as the region attempts to put an end to a seven-month impasse and form an administration.

Catalonia's former leader Carles Puigdemont attends a meeting with his party's leadership in Berlin, Germany, April 18, 2018. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

Catalan lawmakers must pick a leader to form a government by May 22 to avert more elections, following a standoff during which separatist politicians put forward candidates who were blocked by the courts for being either abroad or in jail.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy called regional elections in December after sacking the previous administration for illegally declaring independence from Spain. However, pro-independence parties again won a majority of seats.

Torra is a lawyer and journalist who has been active in pro-independence lobbies in the wealthy region. He has published several books about the history of Catalonia, according to the Catalan parliament website.

Puigdemont, who fled to Belgium after being sacked as regional leader, is currently in Berlin waiting for German courts to rule on a Spanish request to extradite him on a charge of misuse of public funds.

Puigdemont proposed Torra as candidate in an address released on his YouTube video channel. Torra will need to be confirmed in a vote of confidence in the Catalan parliament.

“Our group proposes member of parliament Quim Torra to be president of the Catalan government so he can take on this responsibility in the next few days and so that a government can be formed immediately,” Puigdemont said.

Spain’s Constitutional Court on Wednesday accepted an appeal from the government that effectively blocked pro-independence politicians in Catalonia from voting in Puigdemont while he remains absent.

Editing by Kevin Liffey

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