Catalan Parliament Elects Quim Torra as Generalitat President

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Quim Torra, an editor who was appointed Catalan president Monday after being chosen by ousted regional leader Carles Puigdemont as his successor, is a relative newcomer to politics but has always been a staunch separatist.

Torra calls himself an interim head of the Catalan government, the Generalitat, since he believes that former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, who is facing possible extradition to Spain where he is wanted on rebellion charges, remains the true head of the cabinet.

The election of Quim Torra as regional leader will allow the wealthy region to run its own affairs for the first time since October, when Madrid imposed direct rule after sacking the previous administration after it declared independence. Mr Rajoy said he would receive the new president with "understanding and concord", though added that he would not hesitate to act if the new Catalan government violated the law.

Mr Puigdemont, who Mr Torra yesterday insisted remained the "legitimate president", has been accused of deliberately pursuing confrontation with his choice of successor.

Police sealed off part of the park surrounding the Catalan parliament in central Barcelona for the vote, but streets were quiet with no demonstrations.

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.

This, in turn, will lift a state of emergency direct rule imposed by Madrid on October 27 after the majority separatist parliament made a short-lived unilateral declaration of independence.

It should also lead to Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy securing the backing he needs from regional parties to implement much-delayed central government budget plans. Much like his predecessor Puigdemont, Torra is considered a pro-independence firebrand that is fully committed to forcing the wealthy region's population of nearly 8 million down the secessionist path.

Torra also has promised to create a "state council in exile" and vowed to establish a constituent assembly to write the constitution for a new Catalan republic.

During that speech, he lambasted European institutions for their "unacceptable silence" over the Catalan crisis.

Torra has received strong criticism for some of his past articles and tweets. He also described Spain as "a country that exports misery" and slammed those who don't defend the Catalan language and culture as "scavengers, vipers and hyenas".

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

"In contrast, Puigdemont's strategy is to continue using every opportunity... to continue challenging the Spanish authorities and keep the secessionist momentum alive".

He is not linked to any separatist parties, and as such Puigdemont has chosen "a hardliner... who will only answer to him", says Oriol Bartomeus, politics professor at the Autonomous University of Barcelona.

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