Catalan parliament fails to elect regional president

Former Catalan President renounces leadership from exile

Torra, a pro-independence activist with little previous political experience who has published books on the history of Catalonia, must win an absolute majority in Saturday's vote to be elected leader.

Lawmakers will vote on his candidacy at the end of the debate.

The 55-year-old, a fervent secessionist, will have another chance during a second round on Monday, when only a simple majority of more "yes" than "no" votes is required.

Backing unilateral independence over the negotiated exit favoured by larger separatist parties, the CUP has previously broken ranks with the pro-independence block.

Spain declared the 2017 referendum on the region's independence as illegal.

Only last month, hundreds of thousands of people marched in Barcelona to protest the jailing of nine Catalan separatist leaders who are facing trial on "rebellion" charges in Spain.

Catalonia has been in political limbo since December a year ago when pro-independence parties won early elections.

But since then, every candidate picked by the separatist camp has fallen flat.

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If a new Catalan government is not formed by May 22, fresh elections must be held.

Puigdemont proposed Torra as candidate in an address released on his YouTube video channel.

After a long career with the Swiss insurance firm Winterthur, Torra used a severance package to set up a publishing house in 2008.

There he specialised in reviving texts by Catalan journalists from the civil war and Francisco Franco's dictatorship, which severely repressed Catalonia among other regions.

Puigdemont insists the situation is "temporary", implying that Torra may one day make way for him.

Government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo said earlier the Catalan parliament would not be able to call a session to appoint Puigdemont "at the risk of committing the offence of disobedience".

Puigdemont is now in Germany after being detained there in March on a European arrest warrant against him issued by Spain.

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