Catalan legislators finally agreed on a new president on January 10, just hours before a deadline that would have triggered a new round of regional elections. And no sooner had outgoing president Artur Mas handed over the medal of office to his anointed successor than the next phase of the independence struggle began. The very first act of new Catalan President Carles Puigdemont was to overlook the Spanish King in his presidential swearing-in ceremony, instead pledging sole loyalty to “the Catalan people.”
Outgoing president Artur Mas had led the region for five years before running afoul of his leftist CUP coalition partners with his government’s austerity policies. It’s likely that Mas allowed coalition negotiations to drag on for so long out of hope that he might slip in at the last minute, as none of the secessionist parties’ interests would be served by a new election.
Although Mas ultimately opted to step down for now, he’s not leaving politics, and this might not be the last time that he’ll be in the mix to lead Catalonia.
Puigdemont, a former journalist, has pledged to pick up where Mas left off, following his predecessor’s roadmap to an independent Catalonian state within 18 months. The new president is being painted as a secessionist ideologue by the press; and though he is a longtime supporter of independence, it remains to be seen whether the demands of office will see him adopting an austerity line in the same way his predecessor did.