Catalan separatist agree to re-elect Puigdemont leader

Rajoy says Puigdemont must be

Rajoy says Puigdemont must be"physically present if he wants to govern the region | Ballesteros EPA

Spain's prime minister warned on Monday that Madrid would continue unpopular direct control over Catalonia if former regional leader Carles Puigdemont tried to rule again from exile in Belgium. However, in order to do so, some of those now in Belgium would need to return to Catalonia, where they would nearly certainly face arrest on similar charges of rebellion and sedition for their involvement in the 1 October independence of a year ago, which the Spanish constitutional court declared illegal.

Mr Rajoy had hoped that the snap election would halt the drive for independence in Catalonia.

He faces charges of sedition, rebellion, disobedience and misuse of public funds in Spain in the wake of the independence referendum on October 1st and the unilateral declaration of independence in the region on October 27th.

"It's absurd that someone aspires to be president of the Catalan regional government while he's living as a fugitive in Brussels - it's a case of common sense", said Rajoy.

Rajoy's statement came on the heels of an announcement by separatists in Catalonia that Puigdemont - who is now living in self-imposed exile in Brussels - is their candidate to again lead the Catalan government.

Mr Puigdemont is the separatists' favoured candidate after pro-independence parties won a slim majority in regional elections last month.

In a conversation with party members in Madrid, Mariano Rajoy said Puigdemont "must be physically present" in Catalonia to take office, and if that does not happen, the central government will retain direct government after the Catalan leaders declared independence October. They do not contemplate the possibility of a [parliamentary] presence that is not in person.

However, the Court also stated that it would be up to the Catalan parliament's bureau to decide if votes could be taken by proxy, meaning that Junqueras and his two imprisoned colleagues, Joaquim Forn and Jordi Sànchez, might be able to vote in absentia.

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