PERE Aragones has been sworn in as Catalonia’s 132nd president – ending a three-month political deadlock that eventually led to a coalition deal between his Esquerra Republicana (Republican Left, ERC) and Junts per Catalunya (Together for Catalonia, JxCat).

He was hugged in the chamber by his friend, mentor and party leader Oriol Junqueras (below), who attended yesterday’s swearing-in after obtaining permission to leave prison, where he is serving 13 years for his part in the 2017 independence referendum.

The National:

At the age of 38, Aragones is the youngest Catalan president of modern times and the first ERC member to hold the post since Lluis Companys in the 1930s, when a military coup resulted in democracy being overthrown and the Franco dictatorship imposed.

A lawyer who has been involved in Catalan politics for almost 20 years, the new president studied at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and has been interim president for the past three months.

In his first speech as president, Aragones expressed his gratitude to Junqueras: “I thank you for believing in me, for your support, commitment and teachings.

“I commit myself to carry out my duties with personal humility, collective ambition, and at the service of Catalan citizens.”

For his part Junqueras was given a standing ovation as he appeared on the podium with his fist raised.

“What a fascist army took from us by force of arms, we have recovered with the force of the ballot box,” he said, stressing the significance of having an ERC president leading on the “gigantic challenges” ahead.

Junqueras said his goal was to turn Catalonia “into a Republic if its citizens want it to” and he said the way to do that was to make a “referendum inevitable”.

Sources close to Junqueras expect him to be back in the Parliament for Aragones’ inauguration next week.

A total of 74 MPs from ERC, JxCat and the far-left CUP, backed Aragones with 61 votes against him becoming president.

Pro-independence parties now have more than 50% of the popular vote for the first time, but their challenge will be to pursue that goal while still suffering the hangover of the last failed independence bid four years ago.

Nine politicians and activists are prison and others are exiled, notably in Belgium, where former president Carles Puigdemont has established the Council for the Republic. He is now an MEP, along with former ministers Clara Ponsati and Toni Comin.

Laura Borras, the Catalan chamber’s speaker, will officially notify Spain’s King Felipe of the new president’s appointment.

In the coming days Aragones will be officially inaugurated at the Catalan Government headquarters in Barcelona, the Palau de la Generalitat.

He will then name his ministers in the expectation that 14 ministries will be evenly split between the ERC and JxCat, including a vice-presidency for the latter. The National told yesterday how Aragones wanted to pursue a Catalan republic and a referendum based on that held in Scotland in 2014.

He also wanted to “shake up” Catalonia with a progressive, left-wing programme of legislation: “For the first time in the 21st century, Catalonia will have a pro-independence and left-wing president.

“On one hand we will defeat the Covid that [has cost] so many people and we will take the country out of the crisis, and with the other we will advance towards the Catalan Republic. I want to do what Scotland did and have Spain do what the UK did in 2014.”

“Scotland will succeed and will be able to vote again and the UK will do everything in its hands to convince voters to vote remain.

“This is possible in the UK and has to be possible in Spain.”

The Spanish government, meanwhile, sent a message to the new Catalan president, warning that his administration’s “main obligation and concern must be reality … the economic and social recovery of Catalonia”.

Spanish sources claimed the recovery “is partly damaged by the frustrating decade of independence, which … has led nowhere”.

The CUP did not join the coalition government, but backed Aragones as president in return for a joint political agenda, including a ban on the deployment of police officers to carry out evictions.

CUP MP Dolors Sabater, who was elected to the parliament in March, warned: “Our votes are not a blank cheque.”

She said Catalonia faced challenges ahead, which amounted to “a climate, democratic, economic and social emergency”.

However, she said they would respect attempts by Aragones to solve the dispute with Spain through dialogue, but defended the alternative approach: “We must confront the Spanish state because inside of it there’s no room for our social and civil rights.”