Catalan lawmakers set to elect new hardline leader

Quim Torra has promised to draft a constitution for a future Catalan Republic

Quim Torra has promised to draft a constitution for a future Catalan Republic

The Parliament of Catalonia at a meeting on Monday, may 14, elected the new head of the Catalan government - he was 55-year-old Joaquim Torra.

During Monday's session, in which he only needed a simple majority, he outlined his new government's plans for education, health and employment.

Torra's election would bring an end to the Spanish central government's takeover of regional affairs as part of a crackdown after an illegal declaration of independence by Catalonia's regional parliament in October.

Regional elections were held in December, during which pro-independence parties won a majority of seats in the Catalan parliament, but five attempts to elect a new president and form a coalition government since then have failed.

Torra faces divisions within the separatist camp, composed of the CUP, the leftwing ERC party and Puigdemont's Together for Catalonia grouping, according to Antonio Barroso, deputy research director at Teneo Intelligence.

Torra's candidacy was fully endorsed by Puigdemont, who went out of his way to propose his close ideological ally in an address released on his still-active YouTube video channel.

"Everybody will win rights with the republic", Torra told fellow lawmakers in a speech before the vote.

Torra has acknowledged that he lacks any legitimacy to govern other than through the goodwill of wishes of Puigdemont, whom he has referred to as the legitimate leader of Catalonia, despite having initiated a process that violated existing social harmony laws in the region.

The Catalan regional assembly had failed to elect Torra in an initial vote requiring an absolute majority on Saturday.

He also said a "Republican council" would be created overseas in parallel, presided by Puigdemont, as well as an assembly composed of local officials.

Catalan separatist authorities said 90 percent of the 2.2 million people who cast their ballot in the referendum - out of 5.5 million eligible voters - opted to break from Spain.

Central authorities have been ruling Catalonia straight from Madrid since an try and declare unilateral independence from Spain in late October.

A controversial political activist, Mr Torra was handpicked by deposed leader Carles Puigdemont, who is expected to retain a decision making role from Germany as he fights extradition to Spain.

Barroso said the ERC wants a moderate approach to avoid a Madrid clampdown and to play a longer independence game.

For Oriol Bartomeus, politics professor at Barcelona Autonomous University, the region risks having "a divided government - there could be fallout".

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