May 30 (UPI) -- Catalonia President Quim Torra has rid his Cabinet of ministers under investigation for taking part in the region's independence drive -- paving the way for an end to direct rule in the region by Madrid.
Torra, who was elected by Catalonia's parliament earlier this month, became the first candidate to be approved by the body since former Premier Carles Puigdemont's administration was sacked seven months ago for unilaterally declaring independence from Spain.
After weeks at a stalemate, Torra chose a new administration that leaves out jailed or exiled former ministers who backed the region's independence push.
His decision to include people under investigation in his government was met with opposition from Madrid, which described the picks as "a provocation" and said Spain's direct rule over Catalonia would continue as long as Torra chose ministers encumbered by criminal investigations.
By choosing officials who are not wanted or jailed, Torra will be able to form a new government and end Madrid's application of Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, which allowed for Spain to take control of Catalonia's autonomous powers.
Torra's move comes as Rajoy faces a no-confidence vote in Congress on Thursday and Friday that could see him ousted and replaced by Pedro Sánchez of the opposition Socialist Party.
Spain's highest court found that the country's governing People's Party had benefited from a illegal kickbacks-for-contracts scheme involving one of its former treasurers.
Albert Rivera, the leader of the Ciudadanos party, warned that Rajoy's party had led the country to an "institutional crisis" that could only be resolved by calling snap elections.
"This is the first time in Spanish democracy that a governing party has been convicted of corruption and that's why we think this legislature is done for," Rivera told the Guardian.
"It's a tremendous blow to the PP and to Rajoy, it's done for the legislature and opened up an institutional crisis that can only be solved by letting Spaniards have their say by calling early elections."