BARCELONA – The deposed Catalan president and candidate for the upcoming snap elections in Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, urged voters on Sunday to use the ballot to send a clear message in favor of Catalonia’s independence from Spain.
The separatist figurehead, who was removed from his post by the Spanish state following an illegal independence bid, addressed followers at a charity event in Barcelona in a video conference broadcast from Belgium, where he was in self-imposed exile just four days ahead of the regional vote.
Puigdemont, who was campaigning for his Together for Catalonia formation, called for the creation of an independent Catalonia in the form of a “great, free, prosperous and democratic republic.”
He said the elections should not serve to whitewash the Spanish government’s application of Article 155 of the Constitution, which on Oct. 27 stripped Catalonia of its autonomy in response to the region’s unilateral declaration of independence.
Puigdemont dubbed the constitutional mechanism a “coup d’etat.”
The Girona-born politician was currently facing an arrest warrant in Spain amid allegations of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds regarding his role in the Catalan independence bid.
However, he earlier told the newspaper Vanguardia that he would return to Spain if voters rejected Article 155 at the ballot box.
The former Catalan vice-president, Oriol Junqueras, of the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) party, remained in prison alongside several former regional ministers who face the same allegations.
Recent polling has shown the separatist parties and the pro-unity parties to be neck-and-neck, but it is unlikely any group will win a majority.