Catalan secessionists back absent ex-leader Carles Puigdemont for regional president | News | DW | 05.05.2018
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Catalan secessionists back absent ex-leader Carles Puigdemont for regional president

Pro-independence Catalan politicians hope to nominate exiled former leader Carles Puigdemont to head their regional government again. The move would be in defiance of Spain's wishes.

Catalan separatists, meeting in Berlin, vowed to attempt once again to get their leader-in-exile Carles Puigdemont reinstalled as president of the Spanish region. A change in law pushed through the Catalan government could allow Puigdemont to govern from a distance.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, however, has dismissed the suggestion that Puigdemont could indeed rule from a distance.

Read more: Catalan independence - What you need to know

Power vacuum in Catalonia

After meeting Puigdemont in Berlin, where he is currently waiting for Germany to rule on a Spanish request to extradite him, a spokesman for the secessionist Junts per Catalunya party in the regional parliament said they were keen to install him as regional president by May 14.

"We want to vote on the investiture of @KRLS (Puigdemont), a legitimate president, the one who emerges from the polls with the mandate ... before May 14," party spokesman Eduard Pujol tweeted.

While there had been speculation that the party could propose a fresh candidate acceptable to Madrid, Pujol said that the secessionists were remaining loyal to Puigdemont despite previous failed efforts to install him in the presidency.

Madrid called regional elections in Catalonia last December in a bid to curb the momentum of the independence movement, but the plan backfired with the secessionists keeping a slim majority.

Runaway leader

Puigdemont fled Spain last October after Rajoy had sacked his government following a divisive independence referendum, which the Supreme Court deemed illegal. He was charged with "rebellion" against the government, which could result in a prison sentence of up to 30 years, and went into self-imposed exile in Belgium.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy (Getty Images/AFP/J. Soriano)

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy wants to see Puigdemont extradited and tried in Spain

Puigdemont was detained in Germany in March on a European arrest warrant as he travelled to Belgium on his way back from an appearance in Finland.

Puigdemont is free to move around Germany after being released from detention pending a German court decision on a Spanish extradition request, but he may not leave the country.

Since the last election in Catalonia in December, four attempts to form a government have failed because the presidential candidates were either in self-imposed exile or in custody. Spain's Constitutional Court ruled in January that a presidential candidate must be present in parliament for the vote in order to take up the post.

However, the Catalan parliament passed a law in response stating that a presidential candidate does not have to be present in parliament to be elected — an attempt to pave the way for Puigdemont to be its next leader.

If a new Catalan government is not formed by May 22, fresh elections must be held.

ss/bw (dpa, AFP, Reuters)

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