Catalonia's president pressed to call fresh election

Barcelona (AFP) –


Catalonia's separatist president, who has lacked a majority in the regional parliament since October, was under pressure Thursday from opposition parties to call snap polls in the Spanish region.

The 135-seat Catalan regional parliament approved a non-binding motion criticising Quim Torra's "ineffectiveness" and demanding that he "immediately face a no-confidence motion or call elections" by a slim margin of 62 votes in favour and 61 against.

The motion was backed by parties that oppose independence for the wealthy northeastern region while radical separatist parties abstained from voting.

Torra ruled out both options. "We continue to govern with all our republic ambition intact," he wrote on Twitter.

His coalition government, made up of Catalonia's two main separatist parties, JxC (Together for Catalonia) and ERC (Republican Left of Catalonia), has been strained by difference over strategy, loss of support and an inability to pass a budget for 2019.

The separatist block lost its absolute majority in the Catalan parliament in October 2018 after several lawmakers who were charged over Catalonia's failed attempt to break away from Spain in 2017 were suspended.

Torra has managed to pass only two laws and five decrees in the Catalan regional parliament since he took office in May 2018.

"We have a government that does not govern... They don't have a majority and have declined to present a budget," said the spokeswoman for the opposition Socialists in the Catalan parliament, Eva Granados.

While Catalan far-left separatist party CUP abstained from voting on the motion, it too demanded fresh elections and blasted Torra for not taking steps towards achieving Catalan independence.

Torra was picked for the post by his predecessor Carles Puigdemont, who fled Spain shortly after the Catalan parliament declared independence to no effect following in October 2017 a banned independence referendum.

He had vowed to resume the path to independence but has made little progress with the movement deeply divided between those who back a unilateral declaration of independence and others who call for dialogue with Spain's central government.

Torra has instead focused on symbolic fights such as his recent refusal to remove pro-independence symbols from Catalan regional government buildings ahead of a general election in Spain on April 28 as ordered by the country?s electoral board.

Public prosecutors last week filed a criminal lawsuit against Torra for disobedience over the affair. If he is convicted he could be dismissed and barred from holding public office.