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Mas elected Catalan Premier

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iol news pic Artur Mas

REUTERS

Acting Catalan President and presidential candidate of Convergencia i Unio (CiU) Artur Mas, walks before he delivers his speech to elect the new president of the Catalan Parliament, in Barcelona, December 20, 2012. REUTERS/Gustau Nacarino

Barcelona - Catalan separatist Artur Mas, 56, was Friday confirmed as prime minister of the large north-eastern region, which is seeking independence from Spain.

Catalonia's 135-member parliament re-elected Mas prime minister with 71 votes coming from his Catalan nationalist formation CiU and the more radical separatist party ERC.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's People's Party (PP), which opposes Catalan independence, and other parties voted against.

CiU was forced to seek backing from ERC after losing support in the November 25 regional elections.

The two parties intend to stage a referendum on the independence of Catalonia in 2014. In the meantime, CiU and ERC want to start creating “structures of state” for Catalonia, such as a tax authority and a social security authority.

The Spanish government says the referendum would be illegal and intends to block it through country's Constitutional Court.

The government said Friday that it intends to take court action against a bank deposit tax which is being planned in Catalonia, and which it sees as overstepping regional powers.

Spain's economic crisis has fanned separatism in Catalonia, with 7.6 million residents, which has traditionally been the country's economic powerhouse.

Many Catalans feel the region would have weathered the crisis better if it had not been required to transfer part of its tax revenue to poorer regions. - Sapa-dpa


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