Thu, 18 Oct 2018

Quit Torra to replace Carles Puigdemont as Catalan leader

By Sheetal Sukhija, Barcelona News
15 May 2018, 06:21 GMT+10

MADRID, Spain - Quim Torra was narrowly elected as the president by lawmakers in Catalonia and will replace Carles Puigdemont, who is currently fighting extradition from Germany.

On Monday, Torra, who is a separatist was elected in a move that potentially eased the region’s political deadlock with the central government in Madrid. 

While the move has not resolved the crisis, the region now has a president, who is not under indictment by the Spanish authorities.

In the vote, 66 of the 135 members of the Catalan Parliament supported Torra’s presidency, and 65 voted against. 

The four lawmakers of a far-left party, the Popular Unity Candidacy, abstained from the voting, in a move that was long expected.

Torra, who has a long history of secessionism addressed lawmakers before the vote and reiterated his commitment to a separate Catalan republic.

In an apology issued on Twitter, Torra wrote about the moral values of Spaniards, and accused the Spanish state of plundering and occupying Catalonia.

However, he has also used more conciliatory language, switching from Catalan to Castilian Spanish to insist that Catalonia would be “a republic for all.”

Torra said, “We don’t want Catalonia to be uniform, but instead united in diversity.”

Yet, his selection was denounced by opponents of independence, who said the move was counterproductive for future relations with Madrid.

Puigdemont meanwhile, has refused to be prosecuted in Spain on charges of rebellion and misuse of public funds after carrying out a referendum on secession last October, which was declared unconstitutional by Madrid.

At the time, Madrid sent police forces from other regions to try and block the vote and the referendum eventually descended into chaos, leading to violence.

Puigdemont and other Catalan separatists said the referendum was a success and the measure had passed overwhelmingly.

However, the vote left Catalonia divided and after Catalonia’s Parliament declared independence, Spainish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy suspended the region’s autonomy.

Using his emergency constitutional powers, Rajoy imposed direct rule from Madrid and called new regional elections in hopes of reshuffling the political deck.

Yet, voters returned separatist parties to the regional Parliament.

A majority of them wanted to restore Puigdemont to power, even though he had left Spain to avoid arrest.

The deadlock has since persisted, only to be broken by the vote on Monday.

Following the announcement on Monday, Rajoy called for Catalonia to return to “understanding and concord” under Torra’s leadership.

He said he would meet with other party leaders this week to review the situation in Catalonia.

Rajoy is under pressure to keep Catalonia under direct rule until separatist lawmakers fully relinquished their independence plan.

Rajoy also warned Torra against leading Catalonia back into illegality by reviving a secessionist agenda that violates the Spanish Constitution and said, “What I’ve heard in recent hours hasn’t pleased me, but as I’ve made clear, I will judge actions.”

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