Catalonia Separatists Support Re-Election of Exiled Leader Puigdemont

Carles Puigdemont | Jasper Juinen  Getty Images

Carles Puigdemont | Jasper Juinen Getty Images

Former Catalan president Artur Mas announced Tuesday he is resigning as head of his regional pro-independence party, saying he wants to clear the way for a new generation of leaders pushing for secession from Spain.

Puigdemont's party, "together for Catalonia" reached an agreement with its former coalition partner, the "Catalan Republican Left" to give pro-independence parties a majority on the parliamentary board, when the regional assembly sits next week, for the first time, since the bloc retained its majority in last December's elections.

That vote was called after Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy imposed direct rule on the region in October in an attempt to quell.

Puigdemont, who has been in Brussels since he was sacked in October over an attempt to secede from Spain, faces immediate arrest if he returns home. 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.

He is likely to be detained if he returns to Spain, pending an investigation on charges of sedition, rebellion, misuse of public funds, disobedience and breach of trust.

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. Insisting that such methods would be illegal, Mr Maillo said anything other than a traditional investiture - in which a president presented himself and his programme to parliament for a vote - would be "a real mockery, first of the Catalans, and then of the rest of the parliamentary groups".

Dismissing the suggestion, the leader of the anti-independence Ciutadans (Citizens) party said "a person who is fleeing justice can't be the president".

Many of the Catalan political leaders were arrested on charges of sedition and rebellion after the independence declaration. The Spanish leader has also described as "absurd" the idea that Puigdemont could lead Catalonia from overseas.

Once the 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.

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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