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14 January 2018, 04:02 | Cameron Gross
Carles Puigdemont | Jasper Juinen Getty Images
Former Catalan president Artur Mas announced Tuesday he is resigning as head of his regional pro-independence party, saying he wants to clear the way for a new generation of leaders pushing for secession from Spain.
Catalonian separatists have chose to reelect Carles Puigdemont as their regional leader when the new regional parliament meets for the first time on January 17.
PDeCat's political platform in the election, the Junts per Catalunya (Together for Catalonia) led by Carles Puigdemont, emerged as the largest separatist group ahead of Esquerra Republicana (Republican Left).
Pro-independence parties secured a slim majority of seats but failed to win more than 50 percent of the popular vote, meaning there is still no end in sight to the months-long, and increasingly bitter, impasse.
Mariano Rajoy, Spain's prime minister, called the election hoping that voters in the prosperous region would halt the drive for independence.
Mr Puigdemont, who is in self-imposed exile in Belgium, may either return and risk arrest or be sworn in from overseas. "The presidential candidate will evidently be Puigdemont", Junts pel Catalunya representative Jordi Xucla told Spanish national radio.
Puigdemont became the independence movement's leader but is now a fugitive in Belgium. He is likely to be arrested if he returns to Spain, where he faces charges of sedition, rebellion and misuse of public funds.
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.
Differences between the two have grown since Puigdemont led separatist lawmakers in unilaterally declaring Catalan independence from Spain on October 27. "You can't be president of Catalonia from Brussels by Skype", said Arrimadas, whose party won most votes in December but not enough to form a government.
Some of Mr Pugidemont's political allies are in jail on similar charges, having been arrested as he fled.
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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