Torra fails first vote to become new Catalonia leader

Quim Torra

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

Quim Torra, a newcomer to politics who has long campaigned fiercely for independence in Catalonia, was appointed regional president Monday, vowing to keep fighting for a break from Spain.

He also said a "Republican council" would be created overseas in parallel, presided by Puigdemont, as well as an assembly composed of local officials.

Spain's Constitutional Court accepted an appeal by Spanish lawmakers in Madrid that blocked pro-independence Catalan politicians from voting Puigdemont into office, while he remains on the run from the law.

Catalan parliament
GETTYYellow ribbons are placed in the Catalan parliament in support of jailed members

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. Torra was backed by 66 MPs - falling short of the 68 votes needed to be elected.

He also said a "Republican council" would be created overseas in parallel, presided by Puigdemont, as well as an assembly composed of local officials. The body was created by hardline secessionists ahead of the illegal October referendum to create a provisional pro-independence parliament in the event that Madrid suspended Catalonia's home rule statute. But Spanish authorities have warned that the national government could reassert its authority if the new regional government breaks the law again.

Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has offered talks with Mr Torra. He said his judgment on Torra's appointment will depend on Torra's actions.

Both leaders' support allowed Rajoy's conservative cabinet to take direct control of the Catalan affairs past year in response to the region's unilateral independence declaration.

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Catalonia is Spain's richest and most populous region, with 7.5 million people. A great majority wants to settle the issue in a referendum, which under current law only the central government can approve.

Torra was the fourth candidate put forward by the two main pro-independence parties.

Separatist leader Carles Puigdemont and five of his allies fled Spain during the crackdown and remain in self-imposed exile.

He faces jail on rebellion charges for last year's secession bid if he returns. A separatist activist also couldn't be elected because he wasn't allowed to leave prison.

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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.

Torra failed to achieve an absolute majority in a first parliamentary vote on Saturday but he's expected to be elected on Monday by simple majority after an anti-capitalist separatist party announced it would abstain.

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