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Catalan nationalist Mas realizes ambition after Socialist deal

New CiU regional leader promises consensus approach on reform

Artur Mas was invested Catalan premier on Thursday with his own coalition party's votes and the abstention of the Catalan Socialists (PSC), who were ousted from power in recent regional elections. The investiture was made possible through a deal struck between the CiU nationalist bloc and the PSC, a link which will now take precedence in all the major pacts that need to be reached during the term.

As soon as the vote came in at 62 in favor, 45 against and 28 abstentions, Mas praised the outgoing premier, Socialist José Montilla, for his "high institutional sense." He also told the house that he felt "honored" at his new responsibility.

"I want to be a premier who is useful, loyal and in love with his country," he said. This was the third time that the nationalist leader had run as CiU leader in regional elections.

Addressing questions regarding the nature of CiU's pact with the PSC, Mas said that "this is not a governance pact, and it does not guarantee stability for the four upcoming years." The new Catalan premier underscored that he was open to negotiations with other political groups.

The president of the Socialist group in the regional parliament, Joaquim Nadal, confirmed that the agreement was merely an investiture deal, not one seeking parliamentary stability. Despite being defeated in elections, the Socialists backed Mas "to help Catalonia," not Mas or CiU, Nadal noted.

Nevertheless, the document that enabled the investiture to proceed states that all major issues will be decided "on the basis of consensus" between CiU and Socialists, and that any "reform of the statutory and constitutional frameworks will be tackled from a position of consensus between at least these two political groups." Mas has said he wants greater economic independence from Madrid, emulating the Basque Country's arrangement.

The conservative Popular Party reproached CiU for reaching a deal with the main ruling party from the previous government, despite running on a slogan of change.