In Brief

Who is new Catalan President Quim Torra?

The region’s latest leader was sworn in on Thursday amid controversy over anti-Spanish comments

Quim Torra has been sworn in as the 131st president of Catalonia amid a gloomy outlook for a diplomatic solution to the devolved parliament’s battles with the Spanish central government.

Torra, an outspoken Catalan nationalist,  avoided promising to obey the Spanish Constitution at his brief swearing-in ceremony on Thursday, instead pledging to follow “the will of the Catalan people”. He also avoided any mentions of King Felipe VI of Spain, reports Spanish newspaper El Pais.

So what will his election mean for Spain and Catalonia?

Who is Quim Torra?

Torra spent his early life working as an executive for an insurance company, the BBC reports. The 55-year-old Catalan separatist “also ran a publishing company dedicated to publishing works of Catalan literature and journalism”, says the broadcaster. 

In 2017, Torra was elected as an independent MP for Together for Catalonia (JxCat), a coalition of pro-independence MPs led by deposed Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont.

Torra was hand-picked for the presidency by Puigdemont, who nominated him in a video recorded in his self-imposed exile in Berlin.

On Monday, Catalan MPs elected Torro as president by 66 votes to 65.

Can he solve the Catalan crisis?

Torra has pledged allegiance to his predecessor, vowing to reinstate Puigdemont as Catalonia’s “legitimate president”, reports Euronews.

But his virulent anti-Spanish rhetoric is a cause for concern among those hoping for a diplomatic solution to the stand-off with Madrid. In 2012, Torra penned an article in which he branded Spanish officials who oppose Catalan independence “carrion-feeders, vipers and hyenas” and “beasts in human form”, says The Guardian.

That same year Torra tweeted that “Spaniards know only how to plunder”.

The Spanish Special Prosecutor’s Office for Hate Crimes and Discrimination is currently investigating some of his past remarks as alleged hate speech.

Once the new Catalan cabinet is in place, the Madrid government is expected to end direct rule in the region, imposed under Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution in the wake of the Catalan referendum on independence in October.

However, Madrid will probably be forced to intervene, as Torra has insisted that he will again push for independence, Euronews adds.

“We will be faithful to the October mandate to build an independent state in the form of a republic,” Torra said at his inauguration.

He has also promised to create a “state council in exile” and vowed to establish a constituent assembly to write the constitution for a new Catalan republic.

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