MADRID (Reuters) - Catalonia’s former leader Carles Puigdemont on Saturday urged Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to accept the results of a Dec. 21 local election which gave a slim majority to parties favoring a split of the northeastern region from Spain.
The election failed to resolve Spain’s biggest political crisis in decades with pro-independence parties taking 70 of 135 seats in the Catalan parliament but not managing to gain a majority of the popular vote.
“The ballot boxes have spoken, democracy has spoken, everyone has been able to express themselves. What is Rajoy waiting for in order to accept the results?” said Puigdemont, speaking from Brussels where he is in self-imposed exile.
Catalonia had demonstrated it was a democratically mature population that had won the right to become a republic, he said in a televised speech. He asked Rajoy to start negotiating with independence leaders.
Puigdemont traveled to Brussels after being fired by Rajoy as leader of the wealthy region following an October declaration of independence by Catalonia. The region held an illegal referendum on secession from Spain on Oct. 1.
Rajoy called on Friday for the Catalan parliament to be formed on Jan. 17, the first step in what is likely to be a drawn-out process to form a government.
However, it is not clear how pro-independence forces will form an administration with Puigdemont in Brussels facing arrest in Spain for his role in organizing the referendum and former deputy Oriol Junqueras held in custody in a Madrid jail.
Rajoy urged on Friday for a regional administration to be formed as soon as possible that would listen to all Catalans and not just half of them.
The Dec. 21 election, called by Rajoy after Madrid took over the region’s local administration, failed to deliver a strong mandate to any party and underlined how Catalan society is evenly split into pro-independence and unionist camps.
Anti-independence party Ciudadanos (“Citizens”) scored most votes in the election but does not have enough seats or allies to form a government.
Reporting By Sonya Dowsett, editing by David Evans