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Catalan separatist agree to re-elect Puigdemont leader

  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.

  A spokesman for JpC confirmed that the two parties aim to "move forward with this new parliamentary term with Puigdemont as the president".

  JpC won 34 seats in the Dec. 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.

  However, it remains to be seen just how Puigdemont could be re-invested as Catalan leader less than three months after Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy temporarily suspended Catalan autonomy and Puigdemont sought exile in Belgium.

  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.

  Consequently Puigdemont faces arrest and almost 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.

  JpC and ERC have said they are investigating how Puigdemont could be invested with the possibility that he could do so by videoconference be mentioned as an option along with his speech being read by another JpC deputy.

  However, another issue is that although separatists have a majority, the rules of the Catalan assembly dictate that deputies cannot 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.

  The assembly has been convened for its first sitting on Jan. 17 and how that issue and the question of Puigdemont's return as the region's leader are eventually resolved are still to therefore be decided.