Catalan lawmakers set to elect new hardline leader Quim Torra

Quim Torra

Torra's election by the regional parliament paves the way for a new government in Catalonia after months of political limbo.

He said: "Some of these laws were approved by unanimity, even with the support of [the Catalan branch of Spain's ruling] People's Party, which was not enough to prevent the Spanish government from running over them like a bulldozer and suspending them".

The Catalan parliament looks set to retain its pro-independence majority, and with the potential appointment of Torra, will continue to seek a mandate for independence.

Torra is all but certain to obtain the necessary simple majority to be named regional president, after the four members of the far-left, anti-establishment Candidatura de Unidad Popular party confirmed on Sunday that they would abstain from the vote.

In the case of Puigdemont, he was unable to return from self-imposed exile.

In an interview published Saturday by Italian daily La Stampa, Puigdemont said Torra, as his designated successor, "takes power in provisional conditions and he is aware of that".

"We will build a Catalan republic", he said after the vote, as lawmakers sang Catalonia's anthem "Els Segadors" ("The Reapers" in English).

Torra, 55, gave a combative speech during Saturday's debate.

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.

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

But, in a nod to the political balancing act that Mr Torra faces, he also welcomed the prospect of dialogue with Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish prime minister.

Rajoy's government and the Spanish courts have declared secession illegal and vowed to block it.

Polls show that Catalonia's 7.5 million residents are evenly divided on whether the region should secede from Spain.

Calls have increased in recent years for it to have more control over its finances, with some demanding outright independence.

Separatist parties won regional elections in December.

He hails from the Catalan town of Blanes on the Costa Brava and has made a name for himself within pro-independence circles, including membership of various organisations, including those that helped organise the massive public demonstrations that preceded last year's indyref and the subsequent political deadlock. But every leadership candidate picked by the separatist camp since has fallen flat. PERHAPS. Torra has already rattled unionists in Catalonia, while his words are music to the ears of indy supporters, Leader of the liberal, anti-independence party Ciudadanos, Ines Arrimadas, tweeted last after Puigdemont nominated Torra that Catalonia needed a president who recognised that the separatist movement had failed.

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

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