Catalonia’s former leader Carles Puigdemont kicked off his campaign for regional elections from Belgium on Saturday, saying voters must “ratify” their call for independence from Spain.

The Catalan region is holding parliamentary elections on December 21, after Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy last month dissolved the Catalan parliament and fired Puigdemont for his role in the independence referendum outlawed by Madrid. Puigdemont then fled to Belgium with four of his ministers and faces charges of rebellion and sedition.

“We Catalans demonstrated to the world that we have the capacity and the will to become an independent state. And on [December 21], we must ratify this,” Puidgemont said Saturday, launching his campaign from a hotel in Oostkamp, outside Bruges, according to Belgian daily Le Soir.

Puigdemont is running as the head of the All for Catalonia political group, which includes members from his conservative, separatist Catalan European Democratic Party and civil society, Agence France-Presse reported.

Rival Republican Left of Catalonia, led by Puigdemont’s former vice president Oriol Junqueras who is currently in custody in Spain, is leading in the polls.

Puigdemont criticized the lack of unity among separatist parties ahead of the December vote. “It’s Catalonia’s moment, not the moment of political parties,” he said, adding that the election will be “the most important in our history.”

Puigdemont and the four former ministers are waiting for a Belgian court to decide whether to extradite them in response to a European arrest warrant issued by Madrid. The court’s decision is due by December 4.

By SARA STEFANINI

More at: Politico

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