The former leader of Catalonia, who led the Spanish region to a declaration of independence last year and subsequently fled to Belgium, has said he will not seek to regain his former post "for the time being."
Catalonian regional president Carles Puigdemont helps himself to a glass of water during a breakfast with journalists in Madrid, central Spain, 10 October 2016.
Madrid (dpa) - Renouncing a bid for the regional presidency was "the only way to form a new government" in Catalonia, Puigdemont said in a video posted on Twitter on Thursday.
The bid for independence by separatists in Catalonia plunged Spain into a major constitutional crisis.
The Spanish central government intervened after an independence referendum on October 1, dissolving the regional parliament and calling fresh regional elections.
In the elections held December 21, separatist parties again won a majority, leaving a dilemma over the formation of a regional government.
The Spanish Constitutional Court earlier ruled that Puigdemont could not contest the election while abroad, but Puigdemont faces immediate imprisonment upon returning to Spain.
His decision not to return leaves the way open for another candidate to become Catalonia‘s president.
Spain's government rejected an offer of a fresh round of talks with separatist leaders in the country's north-eastern Catalonia region late Wednesday, amid continued uncertainty in the wake of last week's disputed referendum on independence.
Polling stations across Catalonia have opened following a months-long political crisis triggered by a referendum for independence from Spain. Thursday's early regional elections, announced by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's conservative government at the end of October, were one of several measures taken by Madrid after the Catalan parliament declared independence from Spain.