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The nomination of Quim Torra, lawyer, editor and writer, as candidate to be the 131st president of Catalonia, is quite the torpedo below the waterline of those who were hoping for a candidate who would slowly return to the pen of the system of autonomous communities, who would keep their distance from the recent past of the independence movement and would turn over a new leaf after the 1st October referendum and the declaration of independence in the Parliament on 27th October last year. It also clears up any doubts about the provisional character of the new Catalan government based on the undisputed leadership of president Carles Puigdemont with a person he trusts absolutely.

When, two years ago, in spring 2016, Torra published his book entitled Els últims 100 metres (literally, "The last 100 metres") in which he explained, as expressed by a subtitle which was quite the statement of intentions, El full de ruta per guanyar la República Catalana ("the route map to win the Catalan Republic"), it cannot possibly have occured to him that, for some of those metres, we'll see how many and whether they're the final and decisive ones, he was going to travel them from the country's highest office: the presidency.

The last words in the book, which are also an homage to Muriel Casals, the pro-independence deputy and president of Òmnium Cultural who passed away a month earlier, thus take on an unusual prominence: "And the final hundred metres we have left to travel now have new meaning, with the death of Muriel Casals. She is precisely the greatest argument to work more than ever to achieve independence: we owe it to here. We owe it to you, dear Muriel".

Quim Torra will turn 58 on 28th December, Feast of the Holy Innocents. A day during which, in Spanish-speaking countries, people often play jokes, inocentadas. Among the 34 Junts per Catalunya deputies, once you've discounted all those ineligible for the presidency by decision of the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court, or both, I cannot discern a choice which could irritate the Spanish establishment more.

Torra is everything they'd hoped to destroy with the expulsion of the Catalan government, the suppression of Catalonia's autonomy and the approval of article 155: pro-independence, radically democratic, representative of the fabric of associations (former leader of the Catalan National Assembly) and culturally Catalan (former president of Òmnium), and bearing a more than proven loyalty to president Puigdemont. He will be, more over, the first president of Catalonia since the times of Josep Tarradellas who isn't a member of any political party. Quite the sign of the times: a full stop at the end of 38 years in which the occupant of the side closer to the mountains of Barcelona's plaça Sant Jaume was from Convergència or PSC.

What will Torra's presidency be like? Although it's a complete unknown, his conviction that he is a pawn at the service of the republican project can give us some clues. Likewise one of his recent comments from the rostrum in the Parliament chamber. "Those responsible for the police violence on the 1st October will be tried and condemned". Or this other: "The state has swapped batons for pens to pass sentences". Or this last one: "What's happens with the Spanish state with presidents of Catalonia? How can it be that the majority of the presidents of Catalonia have been tried, imprisoned or have gone into exile? In what country in the world has something like that happened? Only with the Catalan Republic will our presidents be free and will they stop being persecuted and suffering reprisals".

Quim Torra often quotes one of his favourite writers, the Austrian Stefan Zweig, and his book The Right to Heresy: Castellio against Calvin, an intriguing and disturbing text written in 1936, when he had been exiled from Europe for two years due to the rise of Nazism. Castellio was a humanist professor, defender of freedom who rebelled against the powers-that-be and also ended up in exile; Calvino, an intolerant fanatic who constructed a dark and oppressive kingdom, who in the Austrian author's book is a metaphor for the totalitarian systems that were then terrifying Europe. I won't spoil the ending, but the book dissects the bloodless battle between honesty and hypocrisy, between a free individual and excessive and dogmatic power. The history of the modern West: liberty against repression, the power of criticism against intolerance.

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