Pro-independence MP Quim Torra narrowly elected, paving way for end to rule by Madrid
The Catalan parliament has narrowly elected a hardline secessionist as president, presaging the end of 199 days of direct rule from Madrid.
Quim Torra, an uncompromisingly pro-independence MP who joined parliament six months ago, was elected by 66 votes to 65.
He is the first candidate to be approved by the body since Carles Puigdemonts administration was sacked seven months ago, when the Spanish government used the constitution to assume control of Catalonia and call last Decembers regional election.
The Madrid government has said it will cease using article 155 of the constitution which had never been invoked until last year when a new Catalan government was in place.
Torra is the anointed successor to Puigdemont, who has been in self-imposed exile since October, first in Brussels and now in Berlin, where he awaits the German courts decision on Spains extradition request on charges of rebellion and misuse of public funds.
Puigdemont and the other politicians who have either fled abroad or been imprisoned were able to vote by proxy.
Torras candidacy has been met with little enthusiasm and he only secured the simple majority required thanks to the anti-capitalist CUP (Popular Unity Candidacy) whose four MPs abstained despite Carles Riera, the party spokesman, describing Torra as a neo-liberal capitalist.
Riera later said the CUP would not support Torras government because it was not advocating disobedience and confrontation.
During his investiture speech, Torra said the true president is Puigdemont, who fled the country shortly after the unilateral declaration of independence last October. Puigdemont, who was re-elected in absentia in December, has indicated that he may call fresh elections within a year, so Torra may have a brief political shelf life.
Torra offered dialogue while vowing to pursue the goals of the pro-independence minority and to make the republic declared in October a reality. Defending the republic means defending every one of us, he said.
Speaking for the Republican Left party, Sergi Sabri issued a call to work on every democratic front, to expand the social base, the internationalisation of the cause, to mobilise in the street and to form a government to bring about the republic.
Sabri thanked the new president for his willingness to achieve consensus and represent all Catalans, although Torras hostility to all things Spanish is a matter of record.
Torra apologised for Tweets in which he described the Spanish people as shameless and capable only of exploitation. He had also said he did not understand why anyone in Catalonia would choose to speak Spanish.
More than 60% of Catalans have a Spanish mother or father, or both, and according to the Catalan governments own polling about 43% cite Spanish as their mother tongue.
Responding to Torras investiture speech, Ins Arrimadas, the leader of the Citizens party, said: The electoral law gives them a majority they dont have at the ballot box, adding that fighting nationalism in 21st-century Europe isnt an option, its an obligation.
Eva Granados, the Socialist party spokeswoman, described Torra as a supremacist ultranationalist who hates half of the population whom he intended to govern.
Catalonia has been without its own government for seven months, so Mondays decision represents the beginning of a return to normality.
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