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    Catalan Estelada flags fly along with tourist merchandise at a shop in Barcelona, December 22, 2017

    Catalan Parliament Head Calls for Putting End to Madrid's Direct Rule in Region

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    MADRID (Sputnik) - Roger Torrent, the president of the Catalan parliament which held its first session on Wednesday, considers it necessary for Madrid's direct rule in the autonomous region to be ceased, with regional institutions regaining full powers.

    Earlier in the day, Torrent of the Republican Left of Catalonia party (ERC) became the new president of the Catalan parliament.

    "The first step is to immediately put an end to the interference in our institutions," Torrent said in his address to the parliament, commenting on the direct rule introduced by Madrid in Catalonia after the region's proclamation of independence.

    Torrent also urged the lawmakers to "respect people's will" and "strengthen the ties of the Catalan society."

    On Wednesday, the Catalan parliament held its first session after the snap election of December 21. Citizens, the party backing Catalonia as part of Spain, won 36 seats in the 135-seat parliament, more than any other party. Meanwhile, the three pro-independence parties combined, including Junts per Catalunya, ERC and Popular Unity Candidacy won 70 seats. However, three of their lawmakers are in prison in Madrid and five more are currently in Brussels, including government's former head Carles Puigdemont.

    READ MORE: Catalonia to Remain Under Madrid's Control Until New Gov't Appointed — Rajoy

    According to the parliament's legal team, the lawmakers who are currently in Belgium may not transfer their responsibilities to other people, but no decision was made on those who are in prison. The lawyers in particular opposed the idea of Puigdemont assuming the leadership of the region via Skype, from Belgium.

    Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said that Madrid would maintain direct rule over Catalonia, introduced in late October after the region's unilateral declaration of independence, in case the supporters of independence attempted to re-elect Puigdemont.

    The referendum on independence was held on October 1, despite the opposition of the central authorities.

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    parliament, Roger Torrent, Madrid, Catalonia, Spain
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