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Puigdemont won't become Catalonian leader again, Spanish gov't says

Puigdemont won't become Catalonian leader again, Spanish gov't says

"The only way is to continue doing it freely and safely". "These days many big projects are handled with the use of new technologies".

Fresh from a victory in December elections that gave them an absolute majority, separatist lawmakers elected Roger Torrent of the left-wing, pro-independence ERC party as speaker.

The new pro-independence speaker of Catalonia's parliament on Thursday started meeting party representatives to pick a regional president, with exiled former leader Carles Puigdemont in the lead for the post.

A Spanish Supreme Court judge dropped an extradition request to Belgium in early December after it became clear that authorities in Brussels would probably agree to send him back, but that they would be restricting the crimes that he could be judged for in Spain.

But Puigdemont insists he has the legitimate mandate of the people to rule after his Together for Catalonia list won the most votes within the separatist camp in the elections.

He wants to present his candidacy and government program to parliament - a prerequisite to being voted in - remotely via video-link or by having someone else read it for him. But with ousted Catalan Cabinet members under investigation, jailed or in Belgium and facing arrest if they return home, the regional parliament must decide by the end of January whether to permit Mr Puigdemont's re-election.

More news: Jets WR Robby Anderson Arrested Again In South Florida

The Catalan parliament's legal experts, however, say the contender has to be physically present and Madrid has vowed to block him.

"The result of these elections validate our government programme".

Prime Minister Rajoy has dismissed the possibility of long-distance rule by Puigdemont as absurd and Madrid has said it will contest any such decision in the courts.

The independence drive has deeply divided people in the wealthy region and caused resentment in much of the rest of Spain.

He has said the crisis has slowed economic growth in the region at an estimated cost of one billion euros ($1.2 billion).

Uncertainty over the future of Catalonia, which has Spain's second-biggest city Barcelona and factories for global brands like Volkswagen and Nestle, anxious investors and led to thousands of companies moving their registered headquarters to elsewhere in Spain.

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