Split in Catalonia over next president amid secession push

AP News
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Posted: Nov 10, 2015 2:51 PM
Split in Catalonia over next president amid secession push

MADRID (AP) — The regional parliament of Catalonia failed Tuesday in its first attempt to elect a regional president, a day after the chamber approved a plan to set up a road map for independence from Spain by 2017.

Artur Mas, the head of the pro-secession group and acting regional president, was seeking majority support in the 135-seat chamber.

But radical pro-independence allies voted against him because of his support for austerity measures and his party's links to corruption scandals.

Mas' attempt to regain the leadership post he has held for years was shot down 73-62.

Mas and the "Together for Yes" alliance won 62 seats in September elections, but need the far-left CUP party and its 10 seats to form a majority.

The two pushed through Monday's independence resolution. But Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has pledged to halt the independence drive, and met Tuesday to plot strategy with the leader of Spain's main opposition Socialist Party, Pedro Sanchez.

The Constitutional Court is expected this week to suspend the secession plan while its legality is studied, but Monday's resolution specifically orders the regional Catalan government not to heed the decisions of Spain's highest court. However, under a new law, the court is empowered to suspend public officials who ignore its rulings.

The secession resolution gives the regional government formed by the newly-elected president 30 days to start working on a new Catalan constitution — which would later be voted on in a referendum by the summer of 2017 — and begin establishing a new tax office and social security administration.

Tuesday was the first round of voting for lawmakers to try to select a parliamentary leader. A second round is scheduled for Thursday.

The regional parliament has until Jan. 9 to form a government or a new election must be called.

Polls show that most of the 7.5 million Catalans support a referendum on independence but are divided over whether to break centuries-old ties with the rest of Spain.

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Associated Press Writer Alan Clendenning in Madrid contributed to this report.