Electronics

Catalan separatist agree to re-elect Puigdemont leader

Catalan separatist agree to re-elect Puigdemont leader

MADRID-Catalonia's two main separatist parties have agreed to support the re-election of ousted leader Carles Puigdemont as president, in a sign that pro-independence groups are eager to ratchet up the tension with Spain's central government.

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

Differences between the two have grown since Puigdemont led separatist lawmakers in unilaterally declaring Catalan independence from Spain on October 27.

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.

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".

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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.

A spokesman with Puigdemont's Junts per Catalunya (Together for Catalonia) ticket said that the separatist politician secured the backing of the left-republican ERC party Tuesday evening in Brussels.

He faces charges of sedition, rebellion, disobedience and misuse of public funds in Spain in the wake of the independence referendum on October 1st and the unilateral declaration of independence in the region on October 27th. 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.

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. The Spanish leader has also described as "absurd" the idea that Puigdemont could lead Catalonia from overseas.

"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 (Citizens) party. Spain has jailed other pro-separatist leaders involved in the independence push. Spain responded by sacking Puigdemont and his government, dissolved the local parliament and called a new election December 21.