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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.

Torra, an outspoken Catalan nationalist, was hand-picked by Puigdemont, who is in Germany awaiting extradition to Spain on charges of rebellion and misuse of public funds in an illegal referendum on independence held a year ago.

In a speech to parliament on Saturday, Torra promised to work towards a Catalan republic and referred to Puigdemont as the legitimate leader of the region.

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

The Spanish government is expected to remove the special controls on the Catalan administration after Torra and his new ministers are sworn in later this week. Sixty-five lawmakers voted against him.

Mr Torra failed to be elected with an absolute majority in an earlier vote over the weekend.

Elections were held in December 2017, however no party won an overall majority. The stakes are also high for Spain, which has yet to succeed in its request for the extradition of Puigdemont from Germany, and is desperately trying to field alternative candidates. As expected, the four lawmakers of a far-left party, the Popular Unity Candidacy, abstained from the voting. The Spanish central government subsequently dissolved the Catalan regional parliament and charged Puigdemont and several of his deputies with sedition.

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In particular, they point to derogatory comments he made about Spaniards and Catalans who say they feel Spanish as evidence the new leader is a "supremacist", an "ultra-nationalist" or even a "Nazi".

"With the republic everyone will win rights and nobody will lose", he told the chamber.

Polls show that Catalonia's 7.5 million residents are evenly divided on whether the region should secede from Spain.

The Catalan separatist movement has caused the worst political and institutional crisis in Spain in decades.

Unionist pioneer Ines Arrimadas of the anti-independence Ciudadanos party called Mr Torra a mere "puppet for Puigdemont".

Barroso said the ERC wants a moderate approach to avoid a Madrid clampdown and to play a longer independence game.


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