President of regional government: Artur Mas i Gavarro
Artur Mas has headed Catalonia's regional executive since December 2010, when his centre-right Convergence and Union alliance defeated the Socialist Party of his predecessor, Jose Montilla, in legislative elections.
His party only won 62 out of 135 seats in the legislature, and so had to rely on the occasional support of other parties to govern.
For much of his career Mr Mas did not favour full independence, but now supports secession from Spain.
He called snap elections in November 2012 and promised to start preparations for a referendum on independence if re-elected. This set him on a collision course with the central government, which says the Spanish constitution does not provide for secession.
The elections saw Convergence lose ground to the left-wing ERC party, which also supports independence but opposes Mr Mas's spending cuts. He will now have to face opposition to independence from Madrid and to his economic policies from the ERC at home.
A coalition of moderately nationalist parties, Convergence and Union had previously governed Catalonia from the re-establishment of regional autonomy in 1980 until 2003, when it lost power to the Socialists.
Catalonia's autonomy statute gives the regional authority - the Generalitat - broad powers of self-government within Spain, especially on matters such as culture, education, health, transport, public safety and commerce. It is the only Spanish region to have its own police force, the Mossos d'Esquadra.
Since 2007, Mr Mas has spearheaded a push to revitalise Catalan nationalism known as the Refoundation of Catalanism.
He is a pro-market liberal on economic matters, and moderately liberal on social issues. He is a keen supporter of European integration.
Born in Barcelona, Mr Mas has an economics degree from the city's university. He served on the city council in 1987-95, and then as a minister in the regional government until 2003.