The Catalan independence leader Jordi Sànchez, who has been in prison for eight months, has called on the Spanish government to reconsider its adherence to the principle of “the indisputable unity of the homeland”.

Sànchez is facing sedition and rebellion charges over the part he played in demonstrations in the run-up to the unofficial independence referendum last October.

In an interview with the Guardian conducted before Pedro Sánchez replaced Mariano Rajoy as prime minister, the Catalan politician called for a complete overhaul of Madrid’s approach to “the most important political crisis” Spain has experienced since its return to democracy following the death of the dictator Francisco Franco.

“The only way to restore democratic and political normality is a paradigm shift,” said Sànchez. “Spain has to exchange the principle of the indisputable unity of the homeland for the principle of the indisputable mandate of the popular will of citizens expressed at the ballot box.”

According to The Guardian, the Spanish government’s direct control over the region lapsed on June 2 after the new Catalan president, the hard-line nationalist Quim Torra, abandoned plans to reappoint jailed or fugitive members of the previous administration.

The BBC noted that the Socialist Party leader Pedro Sánchez, who was officially sworn in as prime minister on June 2, is opposed to another independence referendum in Catalonia, but wants talks on the situation in the prosperous region.

Sánchez has recognised Catalonia and the Basque Country to be nations within Spain, not just regions.