Catalan separatist agree to re-elect Puigdemont leader

Catalan separatist agree to re-elect Puigdemont leader

Catalan separatist agree to re-elect Puigdemont leader

Following an illegal referendum last October and the imposition of direct rule on the region by Madrid, the pro-independence movement has become fractured over whether to continue with its push for an independent state or to engage in talks with the Spanish government to gain more regional autonomy in the short term.

Market-friendly Ciudadanos, which wants Catalonia to remain part of Spain and is led by Ines Arrimadas, gained the largest share of the popular vote but unionist parties did not win enough seats to govern by majority.

The separatists' agreement is the first significant step toward forming a new government in the restive Spanish region following regional elections December 21.

"The Dec. 21 result gave us the mandate to reflect the majority", Jordi Xucla, a representative for Puigdemont's Together for Catalonia party, told Spanish national radio Wednesday, according to Reuters.

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Mr Puigdemont, who is in self-imposed exile in Belgium, may either return and risk arrest or be sworn in from overseas. Puigdemont became the independence movement's leader but is now a fugitive in Belgium.

That same day, Artur Mas, who as Catalan president from 2010 to 2016 was the instigator of the independence drive, announced he was stepping down as president of his PDeCAT party.

He is in Belgium, however, and will be arrested if he comes back to Spain on charges of rebellion and sedition.

"You can't have a hologram president in Catalonia", she said in a television interview on Tuesday.

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Carles Puigdemont aims to return to office as president of Catalonia - despite the fact it's unlikely he'll actually return there in person. On Friday, judges from the Spanish Supreme Court rejected an appeal by the Esquerra leader, Oriol Junqueras, who has been in jail in Madrid since early November, pending his trial on corruption and sedition charges. He also removed Puigdemont and his Cabinet.

Once the Catalan parliament is formed, potential leaders of the regional government will put themselves forward for a vote of confidence, although it could take months for a new government to emerge. Puigdemont's party unexpectedly won the most seats among the main separatist parties in December, even though Puigdemont has not made clear whether he plans to return from Belgium.

Junqueras has asked for release from jail to attend the first meeting of the new Catalan parliament.

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