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Fugitive Catalan leader asks Spain to restore his government

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Puigdemont campaigned for the region\'s December 21 snap election from his Brussels exile after a Spanish court charged him with rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds. Photograph:

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01st-Jan-2018       
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AP, Madrid :
Catalonia's fugitive former president has called for Spanish authorities to open negotiations regarding the restitution of what he calls his "legitimate government."
Carles Puigdemont said via social media channels from Brussels on Saturday that Spain should "recognize the election results of Dec. 21 and start negotiating politically with the legitimate government of Catalonia."
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy deposed Puigdemont and his cabinet after Catalonia's regional parliament voted in favor of a declaration of independence from the rest of the country in October. But pro-secession parties, including one led by Puigdemont, won the most seats in elections last week.
Puigdemont fled to Belgium to avoid a judicial investigation into suspicions of rebellion by him and his government. He did not say Saturday if he plans to return to Spain, where an arrest warrants awaits him.
Rajoy said on Friday that he plans to convene Catalonia's newly elected parliament on Jan. 17. In-house rules of Catalonia's parliament require that a candidate to form a government be present.
Puigdemont campaigned for the region's December 21 snap election from his Brussels exile after a Spanish court charged him with rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds.
But a solid showing by pro-independence parties in the poll strengthened the hand of the secessionists, albeit they did not capture a majority of votes cast.
In a seven-minute recorded message Puigdemont insisted he was still Catalonia's "legitimate" leader and that the electorate had shown themselves to be "democratically mature, winning the right to constitute a republic of free men and women."
After the divisive regional elections, how the independence camp intends to rule remains a mystery, with other secessionist leaders, including Puigdemont's former deputy Oriol Junqueras, behind bars pending trial.
"The ballot box has spoken," said Puigdemont, who said he hoped the election outcome could kickstart moves towards "dialogue and negotiation."
"So what is (Prime Minister Mariano) Rajoy waiting for to accept the results?" Any investiture of Puigdemont as regional leader for a new term while he remains abroad would require a change in regional parliamentary statutes.
Rajoy on Friday denounced as "absurd" any idea that Puigdemont could govern from exile and Ines Arrimadas, regional head of the anti-independence Cuidadanos party, agreed.
"Mr Puigdemont believes he can be president of the Generalitat (regional executive) via internet and Whatsapp," said Arrimadas.

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