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14 January 2018, 08:12 | Brandon Parsons
Catalans planning to return exiled president - via Skype
The two main pro-independence parties in Catalonia have agreed to back former leader Carles Puigdemont as their candidate to head the region, raising the likelihood of a renewed push this year for a split from Spain.
Consequently Puigdemont faces arrest and nearly certain imprisonment if he returns to Spain and as in the case of his former deputy leader, Oriol Junqueras (who has spent over two months in prison), it would be unlikely the Spanish Supreme Court would grant him bail.
Speaking to reporters in Barcelona, staunchly pro- independence Carme Forcadell said she would not stay in the post despite having been offered to do so after regional elections on December 21 that saw separatist parties retain their absolute parliamentary majority.
The two separatist parties hold the majority in the new regional parliament.
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.
Mr Puigdemont, of the platform Junts Per Catalunya, and Martina Rovira of the Republican Left (ERC) hammered out the agreement at a dinner on Tuesday night in the Belgian capital, where he fled in November to avoid arrest on sedition and rebellion charges.
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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. Puigdemont became the independence movement's leader but is now a fugitive in Belgium.
Ines Arrimadas, the leader of Ciudadanos (Citizens), which favours unity with Spain, said a fugitive from justice could not be a leader in Catalonia.
The Catalan assembly's regulations are ambiguous about that possibility, but the anti-independence opposition says that a president can't govern from afar. He also removed Puigdemont and his Cabinet.
Junqueras has asked for release from jail to attend the first meeting of the new Catalan parliament.
Puigdemont boasted again on Wednesday that the three Catalan pro-independence parties had secured a majority despite some of their candidates campaigning from self-imposed exile or in jail while facing possible charges of rebellion.
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.
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