MADRID (AP) — The Spanish region of Catalonia will hold an election on Feb. 14 if regional lawmakers don’t elect a candidate to replace ousted president Quim Torra, parliamentary speaker Roger Torrent announced on Friday.
The competing pro-independence parties in Catalonia’s ruling coalition say they refuse to put forward a joint candidate to replace Torra, as a way to protest their leader’s removal, while parties opposing secession lack a majority to elect a successor.
In an interview with RAC1 radio, Torrent said that, without a candidate with “real expectations of winning an investiture debate,” he will call an election for Feb. 14 according to parliamentary rules.
Torra earlier this week became the third Catalan regional president in four years to lose his position while involved in legal cases linked to the push for independence in the region. A Supreme Court ruling barred him from public office for disobeying the country’s electoral law in 2019 when he displayed banners in a public building calling for the freedom of imprisoned Catalan separatists.
In his farewell speech, he called on voters to advance the cause of separatism by turning the regional ballot to choose his replacement into a plebiscite on the region’s independence from Spain.
Polls and election results show that the 7.5 million residents of Catalonia, a wealthy northeastern region, are roughly equally split on the secession question.
On Thursday, hundreds of independence supporters took to the streets in Barcelona to mark the third anniversary of a disputed independence referendum that caused Spain’s deepest political crisis in decades.
The regional police said that at least 18 people were detained and one police officer injured in clashes after the largely peaceful protest was followed by some protesters burning trash bins.