Carles Puigdemont could be re-elected as Catalonia's president

Elias Hubbard
January 13, 2018

Mr Puigdemont, of the platform Junts Per Catalunya, and Martina Rovira of the Republican Left (ERC) hammered out the agreement at a dinner on Tuesday night in the Belgian capital, where he fled in November to avoid arrest on sedition and rebellion charges.

Madrid dismissed the regional parliament in Catalonia and called a new election after an illegal referendum in October but this backfired when pro-independence parties across the political spectrum won a narrow majority in the regional assembly.

However, the anti-independence party that won most votes in a December 21 regional election poured scorn on the plan as Puigdemont remains in self-imposed exile in Brussels and it said he would be a "hologram president".

But this was short-lived as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy imposed direct rule on the semi-autonomous region, sacked its government, dissolved its parliament and called snap elections.

"The Dec. 21 result gave us the mandate to reflect the majority".

However, if Puigdemont is elected leader it is uncertain how he would govern from Brussels. "The presidential candidate will evidently be Puigdemont", Junts pel Catalunya representative Jordi Xucla told Spanish national radio.

While Spanish authorities have dropped a bid for a European arrest warrant to deport him, he has previously said he will return to Spain only if it offers certain "guarantees".

The Spanish attorney general wants to prosecute 20 separatists, including Puigdemont, on charges of organizing an unconstitutional referendum on October 1 and then declaring Catalonia's independence.

While the anti-secession Ciutadans (Citizens) collected the most votes of any single party, the prime minister's hope that the separatists would suffer a stinging rebuke at the polls went unfulfilled.

The Catalan Parliament is set to reconvene next Wednesday, under a timetable set by Rajoy, and is expected to elect a regional leader within two weeks. 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.

"The desire to be free from Madrid is rising, it is in the majority and it is lasting over time, despite the huge difficulties it faces", he wrote in an editorial published on the Politico news website.

Polls consistently show most Catalans want the right to decide their future but are evenly divided over splitting from Spain.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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