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article imageAxed Catalan VP Junqueras suggests Puigdemont be 'symbolic' president

By AFP     Feb 1, 2018 in World

Catalonia's jailed former vice president Oriol Junqueras has suggested that ousted leader Carles Puigdemont, in self-exile in Belgium, could rule as a "symbolic" president with a fully functioning executive on site.

His comments published Thursday in the Diario 16 online news website come as Catalonia is at an impasse as uncertainty swirls over who will govern the region after a months-long secession crisis.

Puigdemont insists he should rule Catalonia again after separatist parties won a majority in December polls led by his grouping, but he faces arrest over his role in the independence drive if he comes back to Spain, complicating his bid for the presidency.

Earlier this week, Catalonia's parliamentary speaker Roger Torrent, a member of Junqueras's pro-independence ERC party, postponed a vote meant to reinstate Puigdemont, exposing rifts in the separatist camp.

Asked whether it was possible to rule Catalonia from exile, Junqueras -- who is in jail for his role in the independence drive -- recognised that it would be difficult to have an "effective" president, even while defending Puigdemont as a legitimate candidate.

He suggested it would be possible to "combine a legitimate presidency -- if symbolic -- with an executive."

That suggested a scenario in which Puigdemont stays in Belgium while a fully functioning executive manages daily affairs in Barcelona.

The questions and answers, according to the website, were exchanged via Junqueras's lawyers as reporters were unable to meet with him in person.

The site did not mention whether the interview was done before or after the delay of the parliamentary vote to reappoint Puigdemont.

In an interview with Catalonia's Rac1 radio, Torrent insisted Puigdemont was still the candidate for the presidency.

But separatists are under mounting pressure to find an alternative candidate given his judicial situation.

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