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Thursday May 23rd, 2019 9:07AM

The Latest: Catalan parliament chooses secessionist speaker

By The Associated Press
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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — The Latest on the Spain-Catalonia political crisis (all times local):

1:40 p.m.

Catalonia's new parliament has elected a pro-secession speaker, thus virtually guaranteeing the chamber's push for independence for Spain's northeastern region will continue.

In its opening parliamentary session, secessionist parties have used their slim majority to elect Roger Torrent of the leftist ERC party to head the parliament's governing committee that plays a key role in deciding what issues are debated and voted on in parliament.

Torrent is tasked with choosing a candidate to try to form a government by the end of the month. The two secessionist parties back the candidacy of ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont who is a fugitive along with four other lawmakers in Brussels.

Puigdemont would first have to get approval from Torrent's committee to vote and be elected from abroad but Spain has vowed to block this.

___

11:55 a.m.

Catalonia's fugitive ex-leader is lambasting Spanish authorities on social media as a new Catalan parliament convenes in the first step toward choosing a new regional government later this month.

Carles Puigdemont tweeted that "they only understand about fear, violence and imposition." Puigdemont vowed to reinstate his former Cabinet as the legitimate government, saying "we will show them that there is nothing that can bend the spirit of free people."

Puigdemont and four of his former cabinet members fled to Belgium dodging a Spanish judicial investigation related to the foiled attempt to declare Catalan independence in late October.

The five fugitive politicians are also elected regional lawmakers. They haven't requested to vote in Wednesday's inaugural session of the new chamber, a move that Spanish authorities had vowed to challenge.

___

11:20 a.m.

Three jailed Catalan politicians are seeking permission from Catalonia's new regional parliament to allow them to vote through delegated colleagues so as to maintain a pro-independence bloc's slim majority in the chamber.

The three are Catalan former vice president Oriol Junqueras, ex-interior minister Joaquim Forn and civic activist Jordi Sanchez. They are in jail in Spain on provisional charges relating to Catalonia's foiled push for independence late last year.

The new Catalan parliament needs to elect a new regional government by the end of the month. Spain is closely watching the process after the previous Cabinet attempted to separate the region, triggering Spain's most serious political crisis in decades.

Besides the three in jail, five other elected lawmakers, including former president Carles Puigdemont, are fugitives in Brussels and are facing legal obstacles to delegate their votes.

___

10:10 a.m.

A new Catalan parliament is meeting following a foiled secession attempt last year and amid looming questions about the role that fugitive and jailed politicians will play in the chamber's separatist majority.

Ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, who fled to Belgium in October dodging a Spanish judicial probe over the illegal declaration of independence, wants to be reinstated in his old job.

He faces arrest if he returns to Catalonia, and legal hurdles if he wants to be voted in from afar by the regional assembly. Secessionist parties regained a slim parliamentary majority in elections last month that Spanish authorities had called hoping to solve the political crisis.

Lawmakers Wednesday choose the chamber's new speaker and governing committee, a key group that could interpret procedural rules to allow Puigdemont's candidacy from exile.

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