Three major separatist parties in the Catalan parliament pushed to ratify a motion on Thursday, which recognized Puigdemont, now in exile in Belgium along with four ex-ministers, as the legitimate president of Catalonia.
The motion, the first ratified since the chamber was elected in December, also recognized the results of a controversial referendum in early October on Catalonia’s independence from Spain.
The referendum, called by Puigdemont despite objections from Madrid, triggered an unprecedented political standoff between Catalonia and Spain. Puigdemont used the yes vote as a base to make a declaration of independence on October 27, prompting Madrid to dismantle his government and the regional chamber, where he made the declaration.
Following the referendum vote, Puigdemont fled to Belgium to avoid prosecution on charges of sedition and rebellion. A number of his ministers, along with senior regional authorities, have been jailed or freed on bail over similar charges.
In its Thursday motion, the Catalan parliament also said the separatists were “favorable to the constitution of Catalonia as an independent state.”
It also argued against a ruling by Spain's Constitutional Court about Puigdemont’s ineligibility to be reappointed to office due to his physical absence in Catalonia, saying he was the “legitimate” candidate for the regional presidency.
Experts said the motion’s push for Puigdemont’s presidency was a symbolic gesture, adding that the separatists were hoping that the former leader would step aside to let another separatist take his place. A major favorite to replace Puigdemont is Jordi Sanchez, head of a hugely influential pro-independence group in Catalonia, known as the ANC. Sanchez, 53, has been in jail since Madrid imposed direct rule over Catalonia.