Catalonia Separatists Support Re-Election of Exiled Leader Puigdemont

Mariano Rajoy has agreed to talks on condition the region drop its independence push

Mariano Rajoy has agreed to talks on condition the region drop its independence push

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".

However, it remains to be seen just how Puigdemont could be re-invested as Catalan leader less than three months after Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy temporarily suspended Catalan autonomy and Puigdemont sought exile in Belgium.

The political instability in Catalonia, which accounts for a fifth of Spain's economy, has deterred tourists and prompted more than 3,000 companies, including the region's two biggest banks, to move their legal headquarters elsewhere in Spain.

The new Catalan parliament will hold its first session on 17 January, the first step in reinstating the local government after Madrid fired the old regional administration, led by Puigdemont, for illegally declaring independence.

A spokesman from his Together for Catalonia political platform said that Puigdemont has gained the support of ERC separatists as well.

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

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However, another issue is that although separatists have a majority, the rules of the Catalan assembly dictate that deputies can not delegate their vote and with Puigdemont in Belgium and Junqueras and other elected deputies either in jail or in exile and in theory unable to vote, that majority effectively vanishes.

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.

"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.

The Catalan assembly's regulations are ambiguous about that possibility, but the anti-independence opposition says that a president can't govern from afar. However, it could take months for a new government to emerge. 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.

In order to guarantee a separatist majority in a parliamentary vote this month, Junqueras and the other jailed separatists are expected to ask for special permission from Spain's judiciary to travel to Barcelona for one day to cast their votes.

"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.

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