Catalonian separatists to reelect Puigdemont as leader

Catalonia's separatist parties will support Carles Puigdemont's re-election as regional head. Virginia Mayo AP

Catalonia's two largest pro-independence parties have cut a deal that could see Carles Puigdemont re-elected as the region's president.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy called the election in Catalonia last month to try to resolve Spain's worst political crisis in decades after Catalan leaders declared independence in October following a banned referendum on secession.

However, if Puigdemont is elected leader it is uncertain how he would govern from Brussels.

Pro-independence parties secured a slim majority of seats but failed to win more than 50 percent of the popular vote, meaning there is still no end in sight to the months-long, and increasingly bitter, impasse.

Under the agreement between Mr Puigdemont's Junts per Catalunya party (Together for Catalonia) and the Catalan Republic Left, the fugitive politician would be installed at a meeting of the parliament next week.

In a Catalan election December 21, the three main separatist parties won 70 of the 135 seats in the regional Parliament, with 47.5 percent of the vote - nearly identical to the result in 2015.

Ines Arrimadas added: "It's evident that for governing Catalonia you have to be in Catalonia - you can't do that via WhatsApp or as a hologram".

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Mr Puigdemont said on Tuesday at a videoconference that "it is not possible to return to Catalonia" because of the current legal situation.

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.

He said he had taken the decision to make way for new people and to face the judicial cases against him.

Some of Mr Pugidemont's political allies are in jail on similar charges, having been arrested as he fled.

The other main potential candidate to represent the pro-independence parties would be ERC leader Oriol Junqueras, who is serving a custodial sentence in a Madrid jail. The Spanish leader has also described as "absurd" the idea that Puigdemont could lead Catalonia from overseas.

But Puigdemont remains in self-imposed exile in Brussels after he fled to Belgium with four of his cabinet members when Madrid imposed direct rule on Catalonia and sacked his government following an October 27 declaration of independence.

The Catalan Parliament's lawyers are set to examine proposals for Mr Puigdemont to read his address via videolink from overseas or have another MP read the speech, according to Spanish media reports.

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