Ex-Catalan President Artur Mas steps down as leader of separatist party

Erika Holt
January 12, 2018

That vote was called after Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy imposed direct rule on the region in October in an attempt to quell.

Puigdemont boasted again on Wednesday that the three Catalan pro-independence parties had secured a majority despite some of their candidates campaigning from self-imposed exile or in jail while facing possible charges of rebellion.

The political instability in Catalonia, which accounts for a fifth of Spain's economy, has deterred tourists and prompted more than 3,000 companies, including the region's two biggest banks, to move their legal headquarters elsewhere in Spain.

JpC won 34 seats in the December 21 regional elections, while ERC won 32 with the radical separatists CUP claiming 4 seats to give pro-Catalan independence forces a majority in the 150 seats Catalan Assembly.

Under the agreement between Mr Puigdemont's Junts per Catalunya party (Together for Catalonia) and the Catalan Republic Left, the fugitive politician would be installed at a meeting of the parliament next week.

Junts per Catalunya representative Jordi Xucla told Spanish national radio: "The December 21 result gave us the mandate to reflect the majority". But the separatists will still struggle to form a coalition government, in large part because eight of their 70 elected lawmakers are either in jail in Madrid or with Puigdemont in Belgium to avoid prosecution in Spain.

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       Catalonia vote deepening divide
Video Catalonia vote deepening divide

"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.

The Spanish attorney general wants to prosecute 20 separatists, including Puigdemont, on charges of organizing an unconstitutional referendum on October 1 and then declaring Catalonia's independence.

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.

Once the parliament is formed, potential leaders of the regional government will put themselves forward for a vote of confidence, although it could take months for a new government to emerge.

Many of the Catalan political leaders were arrested on charges of sedition and rebellion after the independence declaration. Those leaders remain out of the country, and Puigdemont has said if he's re-elected, he would discharge his duties remotely, via a video linkup such as Skype.

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