surinenglish

Catalonia has a new president - separatist Quim Torra avoids swearing allegiance to King

Quim Torra (right) is congratulated on being sworn in by the regional parliament's speaker.
Quim Torra (right) is congratulated on being sworn in by the regional parliament's speaker. / EFE
  • The latest candidate, who is loyal to Carles Puigdemont, was voted in by regional MPs on Monday and sworn in to power on Thursday

After so many months waiting, it was all over within a few days. Following winning an investiture vote by MPs on Monday, by Thursday lunchtime this week Quim Torra was being sworn in as head of the Catalan regional government in Barcelona.

MPs from secessionist parties, who together hold a slim majority in the regional parliament, had been on a countdown to choosing a new head of government or facing fresh elections that none of them wanted.

After it had proved impossible to appoint any proposed candidate since last December's regional elections, due to legal action against them, it was left to the Speaker, Roger Torrent, to hurriedly propose Torra last week. The key to Torra being voted in was the opinion of left-wing separatists CUP, who have criticised his perceived right-wing ideology. In the end, in the second vote they decided to abstain and Torra squeezed in by just one vote.

Quim Torra is loyal to Carles Puigdemont, the former president who is wanted in Spain for rebellion and who is now unable to leave Germany while courts there decide whether to extradite him on embezzlement charges. They have already refused to hand Puigdemont back to Spain on the rebellion charge.

The new president is now expected to style himself as a parallel regional head, giving an unofficial but high-profile role in decisions to Puigdemont in Berlin.

At the scaled-down swearing in ceremony on Thursday, virtually no media were invited and constitutional political parties criticised the failure of the new Catalan leader to swear allegiance to the constitution and King Felipe VI. The Spanish flag was also nowhere to be seen.

Now there is an official regional president, the suspension of some of Catalonia's devolved powers by Madrid, under the so-called Article 155, is expected to be lifted. However the PP, PSOE and Ciudadanos parties have said they will move quickly to support a suspension of those powers again if Torra starts to follow a separatist policy agenda.

Some self-rule for Catalonia was put on hold last October after the regional parliament voted on an illegal declaration of independence and was then dissolved by Madrid.