Despite Spain’s attempts to stop the Catalonia Independence Referendum, Catalans voted for independence.  Shortly thereafter, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy moved to impose direct rule.

Catalan’s deposed leader Carles Puigdemont has been living in exile in Belgium since October. 2017 and was thought likely to run for regional president.  Puigdemont, however, has announced that he will not be running for president and has instead endorsed Jordi Sànchez.  Sànchez is currently in jail in Madrid.

The AFP reports:

Catalonia’s deposed leader Carles Puigdemont went into exile late October fearing arrest over his failed secession bid but still hoping to retake his post as regional president.

After four months of impasse, though, the separatist leader on Thursday abandoned his bid to resume the leadership of the wealthy province.

. . . .  On March 1 Catalonia’s majority separatist parliament defends Puigdemont as the “legitimate” candidate for the regional presidency.

The move is widely seen as a way to encourage him to step aside without losing face.

Hours later Puigdemont announces in a solemn video posted on social media that he has abandoned his bid.

“I will not put myself forward as candidate to be appointed regional president,” he says.

Puigdemont has further announced plans to form a government in exile, over which he will preside.

The Guardian reports:

Speaking to the Guardian a day after he announced he was stepping back from the presidency and anointing a jailed MP as his successor, Puigdemont said he would use a new “Council of the Republic” to coordinate and further the secessionist cause.

“It’s like a government in exile,” he said. “It’s not in the shadows. We prefer to work in the free space without threats or fears. It must act without the problems of Spanish justice or police. It’s a cabinet or government that must represent … our political reality.

“It will represent the diversity [of Catalonia]. I will invite all the other parties to take part. The council must have representation from local communities and civic society … We will move from the old system of government for the people to a new system which is [government] with the people.”

. . . .  On Thursday evening, Puigdemont said he had decided not to continue his bid for the regional presidency and suggested that Jordi Sànchez, an MP in his Together for Catalonia party, should be the candidate.

However, Sànchez, the former head of the influential pro-independence Catalan National Assembly, is in a Spanish prison as part of an investigation into alleged sedition and rebellion in the run-up to last October’s unilateral independence referendum.

The Spanish government has responded by scornfully dismissing plans for a Catalan government in exile.

U. S. News & World Report reports:

The Spanish government dismissed Friday the latest efforts by Catalan separatists to advance their independence bid, saying a planned Catalan government in exile would have no legal authority.

The government also said Jordi Sanchez, a prominent secessionist proposed as Catalonia’s new president, can’t take office because he’s in jail in Madrid awaiting possible trial on charges of sedition and rebellion for his part in recent Catalan attempts to break away from Spain.

Government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo said Friday of Sanchez possibly taking power that authorities “won’t allow it.”