Nationalist takes over leadership of Catalonia
Nationalist Artur Mas became head of the Catalonian regional government Thursday, after his moderate Convergence and Union (CiU) party won last month's elections.
Mas was elected by the regional assembly when Spain's ruling Socialists, who were hammered in the November 28 polls, abstained in a deal with the centre-right CiU, which just lacks an outright majority.
Mas, 54, thanked the Socialists for their "positive attitude" in his first speech as head of government -- he will be formally sworn in on December 27 -- but said he would be open to dialogue with all other parties.
Catalans gave 62 seats to the CiU, six short of a majority in the 135-seat parliament, and just 28 to the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC).
It was the worst result in the 32-year history of the PSC, which had ruled the wealthy northeastern region since 2003, and reflected the severe economic crisis hitting the country.
Catalonia, home to around seven million of Spain's population of some 47 million, was overtaken by Madrid last year as the region accounting for the biggest share of the country's gross domestic product.
A sizeable minority of Catalans, who have their own language and distinct culture, want to break away from Spain.
A charter approved by the Spanish parliament in 2006 gave Catalonia sweeping powers, but Spain's Constitutional Court struck down several of its articles in June, sparking mass protests in the region.
© 2010 AFP