#Catalonia parties propose self-exiled former leader as president

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The two main pro-independence parties in Catalonia have agreed to back former leader Carles Puigdemont as their candidate to head the region, raising the likelihood of a renewed push this year for a split from 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.

Market-friendly Ciudadanos, which wants Catalonia to remain part of Spain and is led by Ines Arrimadas, gained the largest share of the popular vote but unionist parties did not win enough seats to govern by majority.

However, it is unclear how Mr Puigdemont would lead the regional government from Brussels as he could be arrested if he returns to Spain.

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.

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That vote was called after Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy imposed direct rule on the region in October in an attempt to quell. "The presidential candidate will evidently be Puigdemont", Junts pel Catalunya representative Jordi Xucla told Spanish national radio.

However, another issue is that although separatists have a majority, the rules of the Catalan assembly dictate that deputies can not delegate their vote and with Puigdemont in Belgium and Junqueras and other elected deputies either in jail or in exile and in theory unable to vote, that majority effectively vanishes.

"You can't have a hologram president in Catalonia", she said in a television interview on Tuesday.

Mr Sanchez and Mr Cuixart had previously been jailed on provisional sedition charges related to preparations for an October 1 independence referendum in Catalonia which the Constitutional Court had said could not go ahead. Puigdemont's party unexpectedly won the most seats among the main separatist parties in December, even though Puigdemont has not made clear whether he plans to return from Belgium.

In order to guarantee a separatist majority in a parliamentary vote this month, Junqueras and the other jailed separatists are expected to ask for special permission from Spain's judiciary to travel to Barcelona for one day to cast their votes.

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