Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has labelled as « absurd » a suggestion by the deposed Catalan President Carles Puigdemont that he could govern Catalonia from Belgium where he fled to escape prosecution.
« It is absurd to pretend to be president of a region while living abroad and even more absurd to pretend to perform these functions from abroad, » Rajoy told reporters a week after independence parties renewed their majority in the regional Parliament.
Rajoy announced that he was convening the first session of the new Catalan Parliament on January 17. The first round of voting to elect the president of the region must take place within ten days, he said.
The separatist bloc of parties to which Mr. Puigdemont belongs won the most votes in the regional elections held on December 21. His supporters are exploring the possibility of his forming a government in exile.
The rival separatist party, Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), however, urged him to return to Spain, where he would be arrested and imprisoned as along with their leader, Oriol Junqueras.
Both have been indicted for « rebellion » and « sedition », as have twenty other separatist leaders, for their role in Catalonia’s unilateral declaration of independence following a referendum that was deemed by the Spanish Constitutional Court to be illegal.
Mr. Rajoy immediately placed the region under direct rule, dismissing the Catalan government, dissolving the parliament and calling fresh elections.
During the speech in which he announced the date for the new parliament to be convened Rajoy said that the Catalan crisis was “ the only shadow looming over our economy.”
In October, the Spanish government lowered its economic growth forecast for 2018 from 2.6 percent to 2.3 percent after more than 3,000 companies, citing the political uncertainty, moved their headquarters out of the region.