Catalonia's regional parliament to elect prominent secessionist politician Jordi Turull as the president, while the central government makes it clear it would stop any candidate who has taken part in the secessionist drive.
Junts per Catalunya candidate for regional president, Jordi Turull, arrived at the Catalan parliament on Thursday amid uncertainty on whether he will be sworn in as new head of the Catalan government at an unexpected plenary session.
The speaker of Catalonia's majority separatist parliament Roger Torrent announced late on Wednesday he was calling an express session for Thursday at 1600 GMT, where lawmakers would vote for the only candidate for the presidency, Turull.
"We will see," Turull responded to journalists as he walked into the building where he is due to deliver a speech at 5 pm (1600GMT).
In a news conference moments after Turull's arrival, Catalonia's opposition leader Ines Arrimadas said her party is trying to stop the parliamentary session in which former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont's party hopes to see their candidate winning a vote of confidence.
It is not clear whether Turull, who is free to attend parliamentary sessions and to be voted in, would be able to become the next president of the region because the central government has made it clear it would stop any candidate who has taken part in the secessionist drive.
Allegations over 'foul play'
Spain's justice minister accused Catalan separatists of "foul play" on Thursday as they prepared to appoint as new regional leader Turull, who is under probe over the independence drive and risks jail.
Speaking on Spanish radio, Rafael Catala accused Catalonia's separatists of seeking "a clash with the rule of law, with institutions" as the region remains without a fully-functioning government after months of turbulence over attempts to secede from Spain.
A former Catalan government spokesman, Turull is the third separatist candidate to be proposed following failed bids by Puigdemont and jailed pro-independence activist Jordi Sanchez, who withdrew on Wednesday.
Turull is under investigation over Catalonia's secession drive but so far remains free under bail.
Investigation on the candidate
This, however, may change on Friday as the 52-year-old and five other separatist leaders under probe are summoned in Madrid before a Supreme Court judge who will tell them what they are charged with.
The judge will also decide whether or not to remand them in custody pending a trial.
News of the summons prompted Torrent to call the express parliamentary session faced with what he dubbed the "interference" of the Supreme Court.
Catala retorted he was guilty of "foul play," adding that calling an express session to appoint a candidate under investigation "shows there is no real desire to find solutions for the future, but only to continue muddying the playing field."
Critics over Turull
Ciudadanos leader in Catalonia, Arrimadas, believes Turull was designed as candidate to extend the political uncertainty.
"No one wants him (Turull) as president, they only chose him to feed into the independence drive's victim mentality, because they don't have anything else left," Arrimadas told Spanish radio.
Separatist parties won regional elections in December called by Madrid after they attempted to secede, retaining their absolute majority in parliament.
But they have still not been able to form a government as their two previous candidates for the presidency proved problematic.
Puigdemont went into self-exile in Belgium after separatist lawmakers declared independence in October, and Sanchez is in jail pending the probe into the secession drive.
As such Catalonia remains under direct rule from Madrid, imposed after the declaration.
Catalonia has been in political limbo since December elections called by Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, in an attempt to derail an independence movement. The plan backfired as parties favouring a split with Spain won the election.