Torra fails first vote to become new Catalonia leader

Catalan parliament to vote for new president on Monday

Torra has acknowledged that he lacks any legitimacy to govern other than through the goodwill of wishes of Puigdemont, whom he has referred to as the legitimate leader of Catalonia, despite having initiated a process that violated existing social harmony laws in the region.

A first round of voting on Saturday failed to achieve an absolute majority in favor or against his presidential bid.

"The CUP will not block the formation of a new government", the party said.

"All people will win rights with the republic", Torra informed lawmakers.

The 55-year-old father of three pledged to respect the result of an independence referendum, which was held on October 1 despite a court ban and marred by police violence.

He said he would "implement the mandate from the October referendum".

But his profile, the circumstances under which he was elected and the tone he set as a candidate indicate he is unlikely to reduce tensions between Barcelona and Madrid - or within Catalan society itself, which is roughly split down the middle between those in favor and those against secession. Torra will have another chance during a second round on Monday, when only a simple majority is required.

Central authorities have been ruling Catalonia directly from Madrid since the regional government led by Puigdemont relied on the results of an outlawed October 1 referendum to declare unilateral independence from Spain.

In an interview Saturday with Italian daily La Stampa, Puigdemont said Torra, as his designated successor, "takes power in provisional conditions and he is aware of that".

"His ideology is perfectly clear", Ines Arrimadas, the leader in Catalonia of the centre-right, anti-independence Ciudadanos party, said Monday.

On Saturday, he had focused entirely on independence.

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

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

Calls have increased in recent years for it to have more control over its finances, with some demanding outright independence.

He soon made a name for himself in Catalan nationalist circles, joining various separatist organisations, including those that helped organise the huge rallies that eventually led to last year's independence push and subsequent political crisis.

Separatist parties won a slim majority in a December regional parliamentary election.

But, in a nod to the political balancing act that Mr Torra faces, he also welcomed the prospect of dialogue with Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish prime minister. They are either in self-exile like Puigdemont, or in jail over their role in the secession bid.

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.

"In contrast, Puigdemont's strategy is to continue using every opportunity... to continue challenging the Spanish authorities and keep the secessionist momentum alive".

He is not linked to any separatist parties, and as such Puigdemont has chosen "a hardliner... who will only answer to him", says Oriol Bartomeus, politics professor at the Autonomous University of Barcelona.

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