Fugitive Catalan leader withdraws candidacy for Catalan Presidency

Mr Puigdemont suggested the Catalan parliament pick Jordi Sanchez, a political ally in the secession bid who is now in jail in Madrid while a court mulls formal charges against him, as president.

The Catalan parliament was dissolved past year by Spain's central government after it approved the region's unilateral independence.

Pro-independence parties won a majority in elections that Rajoy called in Catalonia in December, and Puigdemont had campaigned to be re-instated as the region's leader.

But Puigdemont has been unable to overcome Madrid, which continues to seek the arrest of the separatist over his aggressive push to break Catalonia away from Spain. The region has been without an official leader since Puigdemont fled to Belgium in October past year.

Catalonia has been ruled by Madrid since October, when Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy used constitutional powers to take over, after the region's parliament declared independence in the wake of a referendum. Catalan parliamentary legal experts and the Spanish government as well rejected the notion of him governing from Brussels.

The nomination of Sànchez is likely to be just as fraught with difficulty, given that he is in detention.

"We need a government, a government that takes charge of problems and governs the 7.5 million Catalans", said Miquel Iceta, the Socialist party's Catalan leader.

The motion, put forward by Puigdemont's party, recognized the legitimacy of Puigdemont as leader of Catalonia while stressing the importance of forming an effective government in the region.

He made the statement in an attempt to unblock a political impasse as the region remains without a fully functioning government.

Earlier on Thursday, the Catalan parliament had voted to support Puigdemont and reaffirm the validity of a banned October 1 referendum on independence in a tense first session of parliament since elections in December.

It also expressed its "absolute rejection" of the application of Article 155 of the Spanish constitution, which enabled the central government in Madrid to oust the Catalan government and president.

  • Joey Payne