Exiled Catalan president Carles Puigdemont intends to run in the upcoming election, set to be held on February 14, 2021, but not as his party’s main candidate. He announced his plans on Wednesday evening, just before the deadline to run in the Junts per Catalunya (JxCat) internal vote to decide on the party’s frontrunner ended.

Puigdemont did not unveil whether he might still be the first candidate on the party’s electoral list, which is typically the person running for president, but in any case, he made it clear that he would not be JxCat’s presidential candidate.

The race is, as of yet, down to three names: the current territory minister Damià Calvet, the former culture minister and current MP in Congress Laura Borràs, and grassroots party member Joan-Ramon Colomines-Companys.

Finish the job

In a statement shared on social media, the Catalan chief during the 2017 referendum said that the independence camp needs to “retake” the path started with that vote, where two million people voted for a Catalan state.

“We have to finish the job,” said the leader who went into exile in Belgium some days after the 27 October 2017 declaration of independence in the Catalan parliament. “But this will only be possible if the movement is able to procure a strong government.” He went on to say that with this in mind, Junts per Catalunya needs to remain strong and that he would “lead” the project and the campaign – but not as its frontrunner.

The Spanish electoral authority and Constitutional Court frustrated his attempt to become president in early 2018, shortly after his party topped the independence camp with him as the frontrunner.  Although there were enough lawmakers ready to reelect him, Spain’s judiciary barred his candidacy on the grounds that he had to defend his presidential bid in-person to become Parliament’s chosen president.

Candidates

Puigdemont’s move means that another person has to be picked by JxCat members as the frontrunner in an internal vote on November 28 and 29. One of the top candidates is Laura Borràs. After a ten-month stint as culture minister, she gave up her post in order to lead the Junts per Catalunya bid in both of Spain’s 2019 elections.

Her party came in third, with 8 seats out of 48 and 13.6% of the vote, behind pro-independence ally Esquerra and the Socialists. Borràs has a criminal case open in Spain’s Supreme Court for allegedly awarding irregular public contracts being while she was at the head of the Institute of Catalan Letters.

The other main contender is Damià Calvet, who has served as Catalan territory and sustainability minister since May 2018.

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