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Catalonia parliament to vote next Monday on new regional chief

A deputy films a video during a session in Catalonia's regional parliament in Barcelona, Spain, March 1, 2018. REUTERS/Albert Salame

MADRID (Reuters) - Catalonia’s parliament will convene next Monday to vote on the region’s new leader, assembly speaker Roger Torrent said on Tuesday, though it is unclear whether the candidate put forward by secessionist parties will be elected or not.

Jordi Sanchez is currently in jail as he awaits trial on charges of rebellion and sedition over Catalonia’s illegal referendum and unilateral declaration of independence from Spain last October.

The former leader of the pro-independence civic group Asamblea Nacional Catalana asked the judge handling his case on Tuesday for permission to leave prison to attend Monday’s parliamentary session in Barcelona. It was unclear whether the judge will accept the request.

With some of the secessionist leaders in self-imposed exile in Brussels and unable to cast their ballot, and small far-left party CUP saying it would abstain, Sanchez may not attract enough votes. That would trigger a new round of consultations and a further vote in the following days or weeks.

Catalonia’s independence figurehead, Carles Puigdemont, pulled back on March 1 from a bid for a second term as regional leader. He fled to Belgium after the unilateral declaration of independence and would likely be arrested if he returned to Spain to face charges of sedition and rebellion.

Spain’s central government took control of the affluent northeastern region and called a snap election there after a majority of Catalan lawmakers voted for secession on Oct. 27.

The Dec. 21 election returned majority control to pro-independence parties, whose members have since faced court action or have fled abroad to avoid prosecution for their role in the movement, which goes against Spain’s constitution.

Spain’s central government in Madrid has said it will keep Catalonia under direct rule if secessionist parties elected a candidate who was under judicial investigation.

The number of Catalans in favor of independence from Spain has fallen to a four-year low, according to a survey published on Friday.

Reporting by Inmaculada Sanz; writing by Paul Day; editing by Julien Toyer and Mark Heinrich