Published: Sun, January 14, 2018
Industry | By Terrell Bush

Catalan separatist agree to re-elect Puigdemont leader

Catalan separatist agree to re-elect Puigdemont leader

The main separatist parties of Catalonia have reached a preliminary agreement to reelect Carles Puigdemont as leader of the restive Spanish region, even as he remains in self-imposed exile in Belgium, the Catalan news media reported Wednesday.

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.

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

Once the Catalan parliament is formed, potential leaders of the regional government will put themselves forward for a vote of confidence.

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".

Pro-independence parties achieved a slim majority of seats but they failed to get over 50% of the popular vote, bringing no resolution to months of a increasingly bitter impasse. Those leaders remain out of the country, and Puigdemont has said if he's re-elected, he would discharge his duties remotely, via a video linkup such as Skype.

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Catalonia's parliamentary speaker said today she would step down as she is investigated for sedition and rebellion over her role in the independence drive, the latest separatist leader to leave their post.

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

"It's evident that for governing Catalonia you have to be in Catalonia, you can't do that via WhatsApp or as a hologram", said Ines Arrimadas, the leader of the anti-independence Ciutadans party, as reported by The Associated Press.

Some of Mr Pugidemont's political allies are in jail on similar charges, having been arrested as he fled. Three are still behind bars pending a trial, while Puigdemont, with four of his cabinet members, fled to Brussels.

In an editorial published on the Politico news website on Wednesday, Puigdemont reiterated his call for talks with Madrid, which Rajoy has tentatively agreed to but on condition that the region drop its push for independence.

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