The potential future president of Spain’s autonomous Catalonia region has called for the process of independence from Spain to start.
“We need… to start the process to set up an independent state in Catalonia,” Carles Puigdemont said in a speech to Catalonia’s regional parliament on Sunday.
After months of infighting over who would lead Catalonia’s pro-independence faction, which won the regional parliamentary elections in September 2015, the pro-independence Catalan parties finally came to an agreement over Puigdemont this weekend.
Artur Mas, the incumbent separatist regional president, had earlier stepped down, making room for a new president.
The far-left CUP party, that is part of the secessionist faction that won the polls, had rejected Mas over his support for austerity as well as corruption scandals linked to his party. Mas initially refused to step down, and as a January 11 deadline to form a government came closer, Catalonia seemed to be headed for fresh elections, which would have been the fourth since 2010.
On Saturday, however, Mas agreed to step down, naming the relatively unknown mayor of Girona in the Catalan region, Puigdemont, as his successor. This is expected to open the door for the now-united separatist lawmakers, who form an absolute majority in Catalonia’s parliament, to vote in Puigdemont as the new president later on Sunday evening.
The 53-year-old Catalan-speaking journalist and politician will then appoint his cabinet.
He has told the parliament that apart from launching the independence process, Catalonia would need to offer to negotiate “with the Spanish state, the European Union and the international community” to achieve its goal of independence.
The Spanish government has repeatedly ruled out the possibility of independence for Catalonia. The resource-rich region provides at least one-fifth of Spain’s gross domestic product (GDP) and many of its residents believe they are disproportionately taxed by the government in Madrid.