The candidate set to lead Catalonia's government has pledged to forge ahead with a drive to secede from Spain before a vote to approve him as president of the region's parliament.

During a pre-vote debate, Carles Puigdemont said Sunday he would continue with his predecessor Artur Mas' initiative to push the region bordering France toward independence by 2017.

Puigdemont was selected Saturday to replace Mas as the "Together for Yes" alliance's candidate for leader, a decision that earned him the backing of the radical, anti-capitalist CUP party whose 10 seats were needed for a majority in the chamber.

The CUP refused to back Mas in his bid to retain the presidency.

The Spanish government considers the secessionist initiative to be unconstitutional and has used the judiciary to challenge it.