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Puigdemont does not rule out fresh elections in Catalonia

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Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont smiles as he speaks to residents in Girona on October 28, 2017. Catalonia’s secessionist leader defiantly called for “democratic opposition” to direct rule imposed by the central government on the semi-autonomous region after its parliament declared unilateral independence. / AFP PHOTO / Eddy Kelele

Catalonia’s deposed leader Carles Puigdemont did not rule out Friday fresh elections in the Spanish region if the jailed candidate chosen by Catalan separatist parties to form a new government is not allowed to be sworn in.

“It is no tragedy if there are new elections, although it is not the priority and no one desires it,” he said in an interview published in Catalan nationalist newspaper El Punt Avui.

Puigdemont moved to Belgium after the Catalan parliament unilaterally declared independence on October 27 following a banned referendum on secession and faces arrest if he returns to Spain over his role in Catalonia’s separatist push.

As such he has no power to call elections himself, and he even formally abandoned his bid to be re-appointed Catalan president last week, proposing Jordi Sanchez as a candidate.

But Sanchez is considered to have little chance of taking up the post since he is remanded in custody pending accusations of sedition over last year’s Catalan independence crisis.

On Friday, Spain’s Supreme Court turned down his request to be released from jail to attend a crux parliamentary session on Monday where he was set to officially be appointed.

The court’s decision means it is unlikely that the Catalan assembly will convene, though parliamentary speaker Roger Torrent has yet to react.

“If we have elections”, Puigdemont said, “it will be due to the enormous irresponsibility of the state, because they did not accept the results” of the snap elections held in Catalonia on December 21 which saw separatist parties once again win an absolute majority of seats in the Catalan parliament.

“Since they did not like the outcome, they don’t want parliament to pick its president… They are forcing things in such a way that maybe we should repeat elections,” he added.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s conservative government dissolved Catalonia’s parliament, called the early election and imposed direct rule over the region after Catalonia’s assembly on October 27 unilaterally declared independence.

It has vowed to resist any bid to break the region away from Spain and called on Catalan separatist parties to appoint a candidate for president who does not face prosecution.

Sanchez, the former leader of influential grassroots separatist organisation ANC, has the support of Catalonia’s two main separatist parties, Puigdemont’s Together for Catalonia and the leftist ERC.


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