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Catalonia set for February election after court overturns COVID delay

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Catalan regional president Quim Torra speaks at the Palace of the Generalitat, the headquarter of the Government of Catalonia, in Barcelona, Spain.
Catalan regional president Quim Torra speaks at the Palace of the Generalitat, the headquarter of the Government of Catalonia, in Barcelona, Spain.   -   Copyright  Emilio Morenatti/Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
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The Spanish region of Catalonia is set for an election in mid-February after a court overturned a move to delay it until May because of COVID-19.

Catalonia's High Court made the judgment on Friday.

It overturned an order with which the regional government, citing a high prevalence of coronavirus cases, had wanted to push the poll to late May.

A panel of judges had already taken the preliminary move to uphold the original election date of February 14 but needed to agree on a final decision. After confirming the date in a statement, the court said that its legal arguments will be disclosed next week.

Campaigning officially began Friday with parties holding odd events surrounded by very few supporters live-streamed on social media, a far cry from the hand-shaking and baby-kissing rallies favoured by politicians before the pandemic.

The long-standing demands for self-determination by Catalan separatists, the handling of the pandemic and its economic fallout are the main issues being debated during the run-up to the vote.

Eight politicians and activists imprisoned after a failed 2017 push for Catalan independence stepped out of their respective prisons on Friday after serving one-third of their terms. The group will be allowed to take part in campaigning but will need to return to prison to sleep.

Catalonia's official polling institute, CEO, on Friday predicted that two pro-independence parties currently in the regional government will take up most positions in the 135-seat regional parliament, with the region's Socialists, who support remaining in Spain, coming third.

A previous poll by Spain's national opinion agency, CIS, put the Socialist candidate as the frontrunner.