Separtist politician elected head of Catalonian government

A separatist politician who has vowed to push for the independence of the north-eastern Spanish region of Catalonia was elected head of the regional government on Sunday.

Carles Puigdemont was elected by the regional parliament in a 70-63 more than three months after regional parliamentary elections.

Puigdemont, 53, pledged to push forward with push forward with an independence bid for Spain's most economically strong region, but the national government in Madrid said it would not allow Catalonia to secede under any circumstances. The separatists have said they would like to declare independence from Spain with 18 months.

"We have more means than ever before to ensure the unity of the nation," Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said in televised remarks. "The Spanish people can rest assured."

The vote followed a last-minute deal between the separatist parties to avert fresh elections if a premier was not chosen before a midnight deadline.

The Together for Yes (Junts pel Si) alliance of separatist parties rallied behind Puigdemont after ceding to demand from the leftist CUP party that its acting President Artur Mas step down.

The left-leaning alliance secured the most votes in September regional elections, but fell short of an absolute majority and was forced to forge an alliance with the anti-capitalist CUP party. Catalonia had been without a government since elections in September before the separatist parties hammered out a deal on Saturday.

Mas stepped aside after weeks of negotiation, declaring at a press conference that he would "step aside to bring (Catalonia) forward."

Puigdemont, the mayor of the Catalan town of Girona, is a former journalist, who founded the Catalan News Agency in 1998 and also led the English-language regional newspaper Catalonia Today.

Last update: Mon, 11/01/2016 - 00:25

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