Lawmakers in Catalonia elected a fervent separatist as the new chief of the restive region Monday, ending a leadership vacuum of more than six months and setting the scene for more confrontations with the Spanish government. Quim Torra, a former corporate lawyer who went on to lead a prominent pro-secession group, vowed to build an independent Catalan republic by working under the leadership of his fugitive predecessor, Carles Puigdemont. Puigdemont is in Germany fighting extradition to Spain, where he is wanted for allegedly using public funds and orchestrating an “insurrection” to get the wealthy northeastern region around Barcelona to break away from Spain. Torra was elected 66-65 in a second round vote after he failed to secure an absolute majority in the 135-strong Catalan Parliament over the weekend. Four lawmakers with the far-left anti-establishment CUP party abstained.
Separatist parties won a slim majority in a December regional parliamentary election. They faced a hard deadline next week to either form a new government in Catalonia or have another election called.
Immediately after winning the vote, Torra said one of the goals of his new government would be to reinstate Puigdemont as “the legitimate president” of Catalonia. The Spanish government removed Puigdemont and his Cabinet from office after the regional parliament passed an illegal declaration of independence in October.