Catalonia crisis: Fugitive Puigdemont abandons presidency

Carles Puigdemont during a session of the Catalan parliament (file photo)Image copyright AFP
Image caption Carles Puigdemont faces arrest if he returns to Spain

Fugitive Catalan separatist leader Carles Puigdemont has said he is ending his bid to be reappointed president of Spain’s north-eastern region.

He said he was stepping aside in favour of detained activist Jordi Sanchez.

Mr Puigdemont is in self-imposed exile in Belgium and has been told by Spain he faces arrest if he returns to Barcelona to be sworn in.

This followed Catalonia’s independence referendum last October, which the government in Madrid declared illegal.

“I will not put myself forward as candidate to be appointed regional president,” Mr Puigdemont said (in Catalan) in a video posted on social media.

He said he was doing this in an attempt to unblock a political impasse following Catalonia’s independence bid.

Spanish government officials have not publicly commented on the latest developments.

Jordi Sanchez and several other Catalan pro-independence politicians have been imprisoned in connection with the poll, which was met with a heavy police crackdown and attracted global attention.

The central government in Madrid later sacked the Catalan regional government, imposed direct rule and called new elections, but pro-independence parties returned with a slim majority.

It is Spain’s biggest political crisis since democracy was restored in the country in 1975.


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