Carles Puigdemont could be re-elected as Catalonia's president

Carles Puigdemont could be re-elected as Catalonia's president

Former Catalan president Artur Mas gestures during a news conference to resign as PDeCat party president in Barcelona, Spain January 9, 2018.

However, it remains to be seen just how Puigdemont could be re-invested as Catalan leader less than three months after Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy temporarily suspended Catalan autonomy and Puigdemont sought exile in Belgium.

Mr Puigdemont, of the platform Junts Per Catalunya, and Martina Rovira of the Republican Left (ERC) hammered out the agreement at a dinner on Tuesday night in the Belgian capital, where he fled in November to avoid arrest on sedition and rebellion charges. "You can't be president of Catalonia from Brussels by Skype", she said.

Dismissing the suggestion, the leader of the anti-independence Ciutadans (Citizens) party said "a person who is fleeing justice can't be the president". The parties jointly hold 66 of the 135 seats in the regional chamber, and can add the support of four anti-establishment lawmakers.

Their dominance of the chamber, however, depends on elected politicians are either imprisoned without trial, or who are exiled, and who will not be able to vote unless they are released or give up their seats to someone else on the party list. The former leader will reportedly be taking part via video in the first session of the parliament - or will have his speech read by an MP - to present his candidature for regional president of Catalonia.

Rajoy ordered the December 21 election under Article 155 - constitutional powers he invoked in October to dissolve the previous parliament.

Pro-independence parties achieved a slim majority of seats but they failed to get over 50% of the popular vote, bringing no resolution to months of a increasingly bitter impasse. "The presidential candidate will evidently be Puigdemont".

"That calls for attention and respect - neither of which have been offered by the Spanish government and the European Union".

The possibility of a remote investiture is not covered by the rules of the Catalan parliament, and the deal to reinstall Mr Puigdemont is conditional on a legally sound way of reading the address. We are no longer surprised, but we are disappointed. Negotiating is not a sign of weakness or cowardice. Polls consistently show most Catalans want the right to decide their future but are evenly divided over splitting from Spain.