Catalan lawmakers set to elect new hardline leader

In Catalonia elected successor Pokdemon

The Catalan regional assembly had failed to elect Torra in an initial vote requiring an absolute majority on Saturday.

Torra, a close ally of former leader Carles Puigdemont, failed to win sufficient votes to become leader on Saturday.

Sixty-six of the 135 members of the Catalan Parliament supported Mr. Torra's presidency, and 65 voted against.

Catalan separatist candidate Quim Torra was on Monday elected as the new leader of northeast Spain's Catalan region following the second investiture debate in 48 hours.

Torra has called for unconditional talks with the Spanish government - which Rajoy rejected with his predecessor - but he has also vowed to respect the October 1 referendum and work to "construct an independent state in the form of a republic".

Central authorities have been ruling Catalonia directly from Madrid since an attempt to declare unilateral independence from Spain in late October. This could help win support from sectors of the electorate anxious that an insistence on independence is causing the Catalan government to neglect other issues.

Puigdemont has been in self-imposed exile for months, moving from Belgium to Germany. Ines Arrimadas, leader in Catalonia of the centrist, anti-independence Ciudadanos party, has branded Torra a mere "puppet" for Puigdemont.

Torra lambasted European institutions for their "unacceptable silence" over the Catalan crisis.

The unionist Citizens party, which supports, but is not part of, Rajoy's conservative government, has argued that direct rule from Madrid should only be lifted if the Catalans obey the law.

Catalonia is one of Spain's richest regions, with 7.5 million people.

Pro-independence parties won a majority of seats in regional elections called in December by Rajoy.

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

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

Puigdemont's rejection of his appointment by the Catalan parliament last week raises the chances that his nominated successor, political new-comer Quim Torra, will secure the role.

For Oriol Bartomeus, politics professor at Barcelona Autonomous University, the region risks having "a divided government - there could be fallout".