Fugitive Catalan leader withdraws candidacy for Catalan Presidency

by Garry Watts March 3, 2018, 3:07
Fugitive Catalan leader withdraws candidacy for Catalan Presidency

The former separatist leader Carles Puigdemont has announced he is ending his bid to become president of Catalonia.

Puigdemont remains in exile in Belgium, as he faces rebellion charges. Puigdemont was at the forefront of the movement for Catalonia's independence from Spain that led to massive protests in 2017 and resulted in the country's worst political crisis in decades.

Mr Puigdemont said his party would propose a pro-secession campaigner, Jordi Sanchez - now in remand in a Madrid prison on charges of sedition - as an alternative candidate.

He said he made the decision so that a new regional government can be launched as soon as possible.

Carles Puigdemont said in a video message posted from Brussels, where he fled to escape arrest in Spain, that he is standing aside so the Catalan parliament can find another candidate to form a regional government that presses ahead with deadlocked efforts to win independence.

Catalonia has been ruled directly from Madrid for the last four months since Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy invoked constitutional powers to take over the region after it declared independence in October.

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Pro-independence parties have suggested he could rule virtually from Brussels, a suggestion rejected by Catalan parliament legal experts and the Spanish government.

The nomination of Sanchez is likely to be just as fraught with difficulty, given that he is in detention, according to Reuters.

"We need a government, a government that takes charge of problems and governs the 7.5 million Catalans", said Miquel Iceta, the Socialist party's Catalan leader.

Lawyers on Thursday lodged a complaint against Spain on Puigdemont's behalf with the United Nations Human Rights Council, the former leader said on Thursday, for violating the right of self-determination. Mr Puigdemont had campaigned to be re-instated as the region's leader.

Puigdemont left for Belgium shortly after but still ran in the polls from overseas, leading the separatist bloc to victory as they retained their absolute majority in parliament.

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