Protests as Catalonia’s leader stripped of voting rights

Catalonia’s parliament has stripped the head of the region’s pro-independence government of his rights as a regional lawmaker, angering supporters who scuffled with police outside the assembly.

The parliament’s speaker, Roger Torrent, said the assembly in Barcelona had to comply with a Spanish court ruling against regional leader Quim Torra to ensure future votes are not deemed invalid, but said he would seek ways to overturn the decision.

Torra will now be unable to vote in parliament but will remain head of the Catalan government, despite opposition parties’ demands that he be removed from the post, Torrent said.

Catalonia unilaterally declared independence in 2017 following a referendum, prompting the Spanish government to impose direct rule from Madrid and call a new election, in which pro-independence parties won a majority in parliament.

Torra was later handed an 18-month ban from public office for refusing to remove symbols supporting jailed Catalan activists from government buildings during an electoral campaign. The electoral board stripped Torra of his seat in the Catalan parliament. That decision was upheld by Spain’s supreme court last week.

Scuffles broke out on Monday night when several hundred people, some of them waving Catalan flags, protested against the decision to strip Torra of his rights as a lawmaker.

Spain’s Socialist Workers’ party prime minister, Pedro Sanchez, is due to attend a meeting in Barcelona next week to set the agenda for negotiations to address Catalonia’s independence drive.

Separatist leftwing party Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) was instrumental in facilitating Sanchez’s confirmation as premier this month after a long political stalemate.

Torra’s centre-right Junts per Catalunya and the ERC, who have a coalition government in the region, have been at odds over the issue of whether to remove Torra from power, raising the prospect of a snap regional election that would increase political uncertainty in Spain.