Ten­sions with Spain as new Cata­lan sep­a­ratist leader Torra sworn in

No Span­ish of­fi­cials and no pledge of al­le­giance at cer­e­mony in Barcelona Span­ish par­ties con­cerned about some of Torra’s ob­jec­tives out­lined in speech

The Irish Times - - World News - GUY HEDGE­COE in Madrid

Span­ish union­ist par­ties are at log­ger­heads over how to man­age the Cata­lan ter­ri­to­rial cri­sis af­ter out­spo­ken sep­a­ratist Quim Torra took the oath of of­fice to be­come the new pres­i­dent of the north­east­ern re­gion.

Mr Torra was sworn in at a brief cer­e­mony in the Cata­lan re­gional gov­ern­ment head­quar­ters in Barcelona yes­ter­day, promis­ing “loy­alty to the peo­ple of Cat­alo­nia rep­re­sented in the [re­gional] par­lia­ment”.

The cer­e­mony re­flected the ten­sions that his ap­point­ment has gen­er­ated. Break­ing with pro­to­col, no cen­tral gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials were present and Mr Torra also omit­ted the tra­di­tional pledge of al­le­giance to the Span­ish con­sti­tu­tion and monar­chy. Pro-in­de­pen­dence par­ties voted Mr Torra in on Mon­day in the Cata­lan par­lia­ment by a slim mar­gin and he is the fourth can­di­date to be pre­sented for the post since an elec­tion in De­cem­ber, af­ter all the oth­ers were barred.

Con­cern ex­pressed

Union­ist par­ties have ex­pressed con­cern at some of the ob­jec­tives Mr Torra, a pub­lisher, writer and ac­tivist, out­lined in his in­vesti­ture speech.

Promis­ing to implement the “man­date” of a con­tro­ver­sial in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum held last Oc­to­ber, in his ad­dress Mr Torra fre­quently re­ferred to the Cata­lan repub­lic.

He said the true pres­i­dent of the re­gion is Car­les Puigde­mont, who was ousted from the post when the Span­ish gov­ern­ment in­tro­duced di­rect rule last au­tumn and is now in Ger­many.

There are con­cerns in Madrid that Mr Puigde­mont plans to set up a par­al­lel gov­ern­ment-in-ex­ile with the bless­ing of Mr Torra, whom he hand­picked to suc­ceed him. Union­ist politi­cians have also por­trayed Mr Torra as xeno­pho­bic due to a se­ries of deroga­tory com­ments about Spain and its peo­ple which he wrote on so­cial me­dia and in ar­ti­cles.

Shortly af­ter the swear­ing-in cer­e­mony, Al­bert Rivera, leader of the union­ist Ci­u­dadanos party, urged Span­ish prime min­is­ter Mar­i­ano Ra­joy to act swiftly to cur­tail any new at­tempts aimed at uni­lat­eral se­ces­sion.

“[Mr Torra] has said in the par­lia­ment that his gov­ern­ment’s agenda is to ig­nore the con­sti­tu­tion,” Mr Rivera said af­ter the meet­ing with the prime min­is­ter. “What more do we want? What more do we democrats have to wait for to hap­pen be­fore we act in Cat­alo­nia?”

Mr Rivera has been cam­paign­ing for a more strin­gent ap­pli­ca­tion of di­rect rule, in­clud­ing tak­ing con­trol of the Cata­lan pub­lic broad­caster and the re­gional po­lice force, un­less the new re­gional ad­min­is­tra­tion prom­ises to obey the Span­ish con­sti­tu­tion.

How­ever, the Span­ish gov­ern­ment has said the mea­sure would be lifted once a new Cata­lan pres­i­dent was in place. The prime min­is­ter’s of­fice said a “ne­go­ti­ated and pro­por­tional” re­sponse to the sit­u­a­tion was re­quired.

Joan Tardá, a con­gress­man for the Cata­lan Re­pub­li­can Left (ERC), warned that union­ist par­ties were tak­ing part in “a giddy race to see who has more anti-Cata­lan testos­terone”.

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In his ad­dress Quim Torra fre­quently re­ferred to the Cata­lan repub­lic

Act swiftly

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