Catalonia elects Quim Torra as new regional president

Posted May 15, 2018

In March, Puigdemont announced that he is withdrawing his candidacy for the presidency of Catalonia.

Catalan separatist candidate Quim Torra was on Monday elected as the new leader of northeast Spain's Catalan region following the second investiture debate in 48 hours.

Puigdemont, who fled to Belgium after being sacked as Catalonia's leader when he attempted to force through an illegal, internationally unrecognised independence referendum in October, is now in Berlin awaiting a German court ruling on whether he will be extradited to Spain on charges that he misused public funds for his secessionist vote.

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

The deeply-divided Catalan parliament voted 66 in favour, 65 against and 4 abstentions for the election of Torra, a former lawyer and publisher with little political experience.

Torra, a fiercely nationalistic politician who previously headed one of Catalonia's biggest pro-independence grassroots organizations, was put forward by Puigdemont in a move widely seen as an attempt to continue to call the shots from overseas.

"Our president is Puigdemont", Mr Torra said.

Ines Arrimadas, leader of the centrist, unionist Ciudadanos party, told Torra on Saturday: "I don't know if you will be president of the regional government, but you will never be the one of all Catalans".

Catalonia has been under direct control from Madrid since October, when the central government imposed direct rule after the regional chamber declared independence, following a vote on secession that Madrid and the courts deemed illegal. Having consulted with its supporters over the weekend, the CUP chose to abstain on Monday, ensuring Mr Torra's bid was successful.

Mr Torra insisted his words were aimed at all 7.5 million Catalans and said he was extending his hand to everyone.

Mr Torra said: "With a republic, everyone will win rights, nobody will lose rights: these are for everyone, no matter which way they vote". "We want the republic because it means banking on the future".

But the opposition accused Mr Torra of extremism, pointing to opinions he had expressed in the past on social networks and in articles.