Catalan separatist Carles Puigdemont poised to be sworn in from Belgian haven

Catalan separatist Carles Puigdemont poised to be sworn in from Belgian haven

Consequently Puigdemont faces arrest and nearly certain imprisonment if he returns to Spain and as in the case of his former deputy leader, Oriol Junqueras (who has spent over two months in prison), it would be unlikely the Spanish Supreme Court would grant him bail.

In a Catalan election December 21, the three main separatist parties won 70 of the 135 seats in the regional Parliament, with 47.5 percent of the vote - nearly identical to the result in 2015.

Mr Puigdemont, who is in self-imposed exile in Belgium, may either return and risk arrest or be sworn in from overseas.

Pro-independence parties achieved a slim majority of seats but they failed to get over 50% of the popular vote, bringing no resolution to months of a increasingly bitter impasse.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has called for the Catalan parliament to be formed on January 17.

PDeCat's political platform in the election, the Junts per Catalunya (Together for Catalonia) led by Carles Puigdemont, emerged as the largest separatist group ahead of Esquerra Republicana (Republican Left). "The presidential candidate will evidently be Puigdemont", Junts pel Catalunya representative Jordi Xucla told Spanish national radio.

Those leaders remain out of the country, and Puigdemont has said if he's re-elected, he would discharge his duties remotely, via a video linkup such as Skype.

He is likely to be detained if he returns to Spain, pending an investigation on charges of sedition, rebellion, misuse of public funds, disobedience and breach of trust.

Ines Arrimadas added: "It's evident that for governing Catalonia you have to be in Catalonia - you can't do that via WhatsApp or as a hologram".

The Catalan Parliament is set to reconvene next Wednesday, under a timetable set by Rajoy, and is expected to elect a regional leader within two weeks.

The Catalan assembly's regulations are ambiguous about that possibility, but the anti-independence opposition says that a president can't govern from afar. But a new president can form government with a simple majority in a second attempt.

The other main potential candidate to represent the pro-independence parties would be ERC leader Oriol Junqueras, who is serving a custodial sentence in a Madrid jail. Puigdemont's party unexpectedly won the most seats among the main separatist parties in December, even though Puigdemont has not made clear whether he plans to return from Belgium.

Lawyers for ousted Catalan interior minister Joaquim Forn says they will ask the Spain Supreme Court to the politician from jail now that he has promised to act within the law.

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