Madrid — The two main parties pushing for the independence of Catalonia have agreed to back former leader Carles Puigdemont as their candidate to head the region, raising the likelihood of a renewed push in 2018 for a split from Spain. However, the party opposing independence, which won the most votes in a December 21 regional election, poured scorn on the plan as Puigdemont remained in self-imposed exile in Brussels and said he would be a "hologram president". Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy called the election in Catalonia in December to try to resolve Spain’s worst political crisis in decades after Catalan leaders declared independence in October following a banned referendum on secession. Pro-independence parties secured a slim majority of seats but failed to win more than 50% of the popular vote, meaning there is still no end in sight to the months-long impasse. The political instability in Catalonia, which accounts for a fifth of Spain’s economy, has deterred tourists and...

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