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Catalonia's would-be president Puigdemont: from exile to abandon

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Catalonia's would-be president Puigdemont: from exile to abandon
Exiled former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont poses during a February photo session in Brussels. Photo: Emmanuel Dunand / AFP
15:28 CET+01:00
Catalonia's deposed leader Carles Puigdemont went into exile late October fearing arrest over his failed secession bid but still hoping to retake his post as regional president. After four months of impasse, though, the separatist leader on Thursday abandoned his bid to resume the leadership of the wealthy province.
Here is a summary of what happened.
 
Secret escape to Brussels
 
Madrid is furious when the Catalan parliament votes on October 27th to declare independence in line with a 'yes' vote from a banned independence referendum on October 1st.
 
It dissolves the parliament, dismissing its separatist leaders, and calls regional elections for December 21st.
 
Spanish prosecutors seek to charge Puigdemont and others with rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds. He and four parliamentarians surface in Brussels on October 30 after reportedly driving to Marseille in France and taking a plane to the Belgian capital.
 
Puigdemont tells reporters he came to Belgium "for safety purposes and freedom".
 
His deputy Oriol Junqueras and other deposed regional ministers are detained on November 2nd.
 
Separatists vote back
 
The December 21st election votes separatist parties back into power with 70 seats combined out of 135.
 
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy says late December the new regional parliament must reconvene in January and elect a regional president other than Puigdemont.
 
"It is absurd to pretend to be the president of a region when you live abroad," he says.
 
The following day, Puigdemont demands from Brussels that Madrid reinstate his government and "restore all they have expropriated from the Catalans without their say-so".
 
Puigdemont candidacy backed
 
Rajoy says on January 15th that Madrid will maintain direct control of Catalonia if Puigdemont tries to govern from exile. He has "to be physically present" in Catalonia to take office, the prime minister says.
 
But on January 22nd the speaker of the Catalan parliament formally proposes Puigdemont as president.
 
Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido responds that troops are on alert 24/7 to prevent the Catalan from sneaking home, "even in the boot of a car".
 
From Brussels, Puigdemont demands the right to return "to contribute to restoring democracy in order to respect election results".
 
Standoff deepens
 
Spain reiterates on January 26th that it wants Puigdemont arrested. A "fugitive, someone who is on the run from the law and the courts, cannot be illegitimately sworn in", Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria says.
 
The next day, the Constitutional Court suspends the official appointment of Puigdemont unless he appears in person. Puigdemont had suggested he could be sworn into office remotely via video conference from Brussels.
 
On January 30th the speaker of parliament postpones a vote to formally re-elect Puigdemont into office.
 
On February 1st the jailed former Catalan vice president, Junqueras, suggests Puigdemont could rule as a "symbolic" president with a fully functioning executive on site.
 
Abandon
 
On March 1st Catalonia's majority separatist parliament defends Puigdemont as the "legitimate" candidate for the regional presidency. 
 
The move is widely seen as a way to encourage him to step aside without losing face.
 
Hours later Puigdemont announces in a solemn video posted on social media that he has abandoned his bid.
 
"I will not put myself forward as candidate to be appointed regional president," he says.
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