Thursday 26 April 2018

Catalan crisis rekindled as parliament proposes Puigdemont as leader

Ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, centre, poses for selfies at a debate in Copenhagen yesterday. Photo: AP
Ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, centre, poses for selfies at a debate in Copenhagen yesterday. Photo: AP

Rodrigo De Miguel and Teis Jensen

Catalonia's parliament nominated former leader Carles Puigdemont, sacked by Spain for declaring independence, as candidate to rule the region again in a sign of defiance to Madrid and Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's government.

Mr Puigdemont and his supporters say he can rule from self-imposed exile in Belgium, where he fled to in October to avoid arrest for his part in organising a banned referendum on a split from Spain and the declaration of independence.

Madrid has rejected this possibility and said it will challenge in the courts any attempt by him to rule remotely.

Mr Puigdemont said yesterday the independence movement would not bow to Spanish authority, in comments during a debate held in the University of Copenhagen. "We will not surrender to authoritarianism," Mr Puigdemont said at the event, which marked his first trip away from Belgium in three months.

Mr Puigdemont became the top candidate after elections in Catalonia last month gave secessionists a slim majority. The 55-year-old former journalist potentially faces decades in jail in Spain if he is convicted of the charges levelled against him, including rebellion and sedition, for organising the referendum and declaring Catalonia's independence.

Mr Rajoy and his ministers have said they would appeal to the courts and maintain Madrid's direct rule of Catalonia if Mr Puigdemont was elected while abroad.

However, the Catalan parliament's speaker said Mr Puigdemont was the only candidate chosen by parliament to rule the region. Catalonia's parliament must hold its first vote of confidence on the new leader by January 31.

Irish Independent

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