Leader of Spain's Catalonia to call early regional election

Leader of Spain's Catalonia to call early regional election

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MADRID (AP) — The regional president of Spain’s conflict-riven Catalonia says he will soon call an early election amid splits in his government's unity.

President Quim Torra, who leads a pro-Catalan independence administration, said Wednesday that he would set a date for the election once a new regional budget is approved. The regional government is expected to present the budget to parliament later in the day.

A regional election comes as the Catalan separatist movement struggles to maintain unity among its three main political parties. A regional election was not due until 2021.

Torra's statement came days after he was stripped of his lawmaker’s seat by the Catalan Parliament following a court ruling that he had disobeyed Spain's rules on election propaganda.

The separatist sentiment in Catalonia, a wealthy northeastern region, is Spain’s gravest political challenge in decades. It came to a peak in 2017 when the regional government under former leader Carles Puigdemont declared independence. Torra was named president after Puigdemont fled Spain to Belgium to evade a court summons.

Nine Catalan politicians and activists were subsequently given prison sentences for their roles in the secession push.

Polls show residents in the region of 7.5 million people are roughly evenly divided over the question of independence.

Spain’s constitution states that the country is indivisible.

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