#Catalonia parties propose self-exiled former leader as president

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The two main Catalan separatist parties Together for Catalonia (Junts per Catalonia - JpC) and the Republican Left (ERC) have reached an agreement that aims to see former Carles Puigdemont re-elected as leader of the region in northeast 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.

A December 21 election gave separatists a slim majority in the regional parliament in a blow to Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who had hoped it would quash the independence movement and resolve Spain's worst political crisis in decades.

Opposition parties - not to mention the Spanish courts - are likely to contest the legality of the deal, which would become official next week when the new regional parliament convenes.

However, it is unclear how Mr Puigdemont would lead the regional government from Brussels as he could be arrested if he returns to Spain. The move backfired when independence parties across the political spectrum won a narrow majority in the assembly. Insisting that such methods would be illegal, Mr Maillo said anything other than a traditional investiture - in which a president presented himself and his programme to parliament for a vote - would be "a real mockery, first of the Catalans, and then of the rest of the parliamentary groups". Puigdemont became the independence movement's leader but is now a fugitive in Belgium.

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"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.

Some of Mr Pugidemont's political allies are in jail on similar charges, having been arrested as he fled. Spain has jailed other pro-separatist leaders involved in the independence push.

That same day, Artur Mas, who as Catalan president from 2010 to 2016 was the instigator of the independence drive, announced he was stepping down as president of his PDeCAT party.

But Puigdemont remains in self-imposed exile in Brussels after he fled to Belgium with four of his cabinet members when Madrid imposed direct rule on Catalonia and sacked his government following an October 27 declaration of independence.

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