Puigdemont rejects being chosen as next Catalan leader

Barcelona (AFP) –


Ousted Catalan president Carles Puigdemont on Wednesday rejected being re-appointed as leader of the region, following pressure from Spain's government.

"The intolerance and the lack of respect of the state towards the will of the citizens of Catalonia have appeared clearly in the eyes of the world," Puigdemont said a video statement from Germany, where he was detained in March on a European arrest warrant.

He proposed political newcomer Quim Torra as his successor, urging the next regional executive to build an independent country.

Spain's government on Wednesday stepped in to block Puigdemont from being re-appointed president of Catalonia, pressuring the separatist camp to pick another candidate and form a regional government after months of political turmoil.

Separatist allies had announced they would try to have Puigdemont back in the role by next week after the regional parliament voted through reforms allowing him to take the role without being present.

Madrid successfully requested the Constitutional Court to cancel the reform.

The court announced on Wednesday evening it had ruled "admissible the appeal of the government" and suspended the reform, which had been temporarily blocked while the court deliberated.

The region has been in political limbo since Spain's conservative central government imposed direct rule on the region after it unilaterally declared independence in October.

Separatists won regional elections in December, but fresh polls will be triggered if a new leader is not elected by May 22.

Puigdemont, who first fled to Belgium, was detained in Germany in March after Spain issued a European arrest warrant against him. He was later released on bail.

Madrid wants to extradite him to Spain to try him on charges of "rebellion" and "embezzlement of public funds".