A SPANISH MP who voted in favour of a referendum on self-determination in Catalonia has been nominated to preside over the Spainish Congress.

Acting prime minister Pedro Sánchez yesterday named Meritxell Batet, who has served as public administration minister, directly in charge of contacts with the Catalan government. He also named Manuel Cruz to chair the upper house, the Senate.

Both are from the Catalan wing of his Socialist party (PSC) and, while they favour continuing the union with Spain, they are more open to dialogue with Catalonia’s pro-independent administration.

Sanchez, who is seeking to serve a second term without a parliamentary majority, has ruled out another independence referendum in Catalonia.

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However, 46-year-old Batet, who was elected to the Congress in 2004, was one of the Socialist MPs who voted for a referendum in 2013. Acting government spokesperson, Isabel Celaa, told reporters the nominations of Batet and Cruz as key links in the national legislative process – similar to the UK Speaker – demonstrated “commitment to dialogue, to coexistence and to cohesion among all Spaniards”.

However, Sergi Cabrera, from the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) in the Catalan parliament, dismissed the move: “We don’t think that putting Catalans in these positions fixes anything. It is a cosmetic operation.”

He said ERC wanted a permanent structure for dialogue between Madrid and Barcelona on Catalan issues.

The Catalan parliament on Thursday blocked the nomination to the senate of PSC leader Miquel Iceta, Sanchez’s first choice for the role. Batet and Cruz are already elected MPs and do not need the backing of the Catalan parliament.

The Socialists have a majority in the Senate, meaning Cruz is certain to lead the chamber, but Batet’s nomination will require backing from other parties.

“Sanchez leaves nothing to chance, he is a person of consensus who is open to maintaining contacts with different political parties,” said Antonio Barroso, who heads political consultancy Teneo.

To be sworn in again as PM, he will need the support of other leftist parties, plus at least one vote or abstention from pro-independent Basque or Catalan parties.

Meanwhile, Scots lawyer Aamer Anwar has defended Catalans’ right to self-determination in a speech in support of Jordi Graupera, who is leading the pro-independent Barcelona is Capital in the municipal primaries.

“Over the last two years, Spain has torn apart its so-called respect for democratic rights and sovereignty,” said Anwar.

“The heirs of Franco have tried to crush the desire of the people of Catalonia to run their own affairs. When nine out of 11 Catalan presidents have been jailed, exiled or executed, then it is time to change the course of history. The only way to do that is to exercise the power of the people.”