Puigdemont says 'no one can dispute' Catalan separatists won vote

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Brussels (AFP)

Deposed Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont said from self-imposed exile in Belgium that it was indisputable that separatists had won Thursday's key regional vote.

"This is a result which no one can dispute," Puigdemont told supporters in Brussels as partial results showed that pro-independence parties were on course for an absolute majority.

As loyalists shouted "president, president", Puigdemont also lashed out at Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who called the election in a bid to end Spain's worst political crisis in decades.

Puigdemont said it was "a slap" for the Spanish premier, adding: "Rajoy has lost the mandate he sought."

Puigdemont was axed as president of Catalonia after holding an independence referendum that Madrid deemed illegal.

He and four former ministers then fled to Belgium to avoid charges of rebellion and sedition. Spain dropped a European arrest warrant for them earlier this month but they still face arrest if they return to their homeland.