New Catalan Cabinet in line to end 7-month power vacuum

COMPILED FROM WIRE SERVICES
ISTANBUL
Published 30.05.2018 23:42
Updated 30.05.2018 23:43

Catalan President Quim Torra has appointed a Cabinet composed of members not being investigated in a judicial probe into last year's independence bid, paving the way for an end to the seven-month vacuum in the regional government.

Spanish central authorities, who are managing Catalonia directly since separatists passed a unilateral declaration of independence in October, need to publish their names now in an official gazette. Madrid's special controls over the prosperous region will lift once the new Catalan Cabinet is sworn in, possibly over the weekend.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's conservative government refused to publish a previous list of ministerial nominees that included two people in pre-trial custody and two more fighting extradition to Spain from Belgium.

The respite in the Catalan crisis comes as Rajoy faces a parliamentary no-confidence vote Friday following corruption convictions involving members of his ruling Popular Party.

Torra, who came to power last month promising to resume efforts to create an independent republic of 7.5 million inhabitants in northeastern Spain, signed a decree with the new appointments late on Tuesday.

Among the new nominees is Elsa Artadi, a key adviser to ousted Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, who is now in Berlin and also sought by Spanish judicial authorities. Artadi will also be the regional government's spokeswoman, Torra's decree said.

The spat over Catalonia's future prompted Spain's worst political crisis in decades, though its three main political parties at the national level have been united against Catalan independence so far.

The opposition is nevertheless trying to oust Rajoy's government. All major opposition parties are calling for Rajoy to step down after Spain's National Court last week said it had uncovered a vast system of bribes given to former officials or lawmakers of his Popular Party in exchange for juicy contracts between 1999 and 2005. Spanish PM Rajoy vowed yesterday not to resign ahead of a no-confidence vote in parliament Friday over graft convictions against members of his conservative Popular Party and the court casting doubt on his testimony.

Asked in parliament by an opposition lawmaker if he would step down, Rajoy said his "intention" was to "carry out the mandate granted by Spaniards" and serve out his four-year term which ends in 2020. He recalled that his Popular Party (PP) won "over 50 more seats" in the last general election in June 2016 than the second most voted party, the Socialists, who last week filed a no-confidence motion against Rajoy. The vote on the motion will take place on Friday.

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