OOSTKAMP, Belgium – The deposed regional president of Spain’s northeastern autonomous region of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, presented on Saturday his candidacy for next month’s regional elections.
Puigdemont, who fled to Belgium from Barcelona after his government declared the region’s unilateral independence from Spain, made his announcement at a hotel near the city of Bruges.
In launching his campaign for Catalonia’s regional elections scheduled for Dec. 21, Puigdemont said the poll needed to “ratify” the region’s will for independence.
During a speech amid cries of “president,” he called on Spain to release its grip over the region and said his proposal aimed to return the power to the people.
After the press conference, he posed for photos with candidates of his pro-independence “Junta per Catalunya” platform.
The government in Madrid dismissed the Catalan government and Puigdemont from his post, and imposed direct rule over Catalonia at the end of last month after Catalan lawmakers declared the region’s independence from Spain.
The events led Puigdemont to flee to Belgium, a European Arrest Warrant being issued against him at the request of Spain and the national government calling regional elections in Catalonia.
The former leader remains free in Belgium until the Belgian judiciary decide whether or not to send him back to Spain.