Catalonia's deposed leader Carles Puigdemont refused Friday to rule out fresh elections in the Spanish region if the jailed candidate chosen by Catalan separatist parties to form a new government is not allowed to be sworn in.
"It is no tragedy if there are new elections, although it is not the priority and no one desires it," he said in an interview published in Catalan nationalist newspaper El Punt Avui.
Puigdemont moved to Belgium after the Catalan parliament unilaterally declared independence on October 27 following a banned referendum on secession and faces arrest if he returns to Spain over his role in Catalonia's separatist push.
He formally abandoned his bid to be re-appointed Catalan president last week and proposed Jordi Sanchez as a candidate, with the Catalan parliament set to convene on Monday to appoint a new regional president.
But Sanchez is considered to have little chance of taking up the post since he is remanded in custody pending accusations of sedition over last year's Catalan independence crisis.
"If we have elections", Puigdemont said, "it will be due to the enormous irresponsibility of the state, because they did not accept the results" of the snap elections held in Catalonia on December 21 which saw separatist parties once again win an absolute majority of seats in the Catalan parliament.
"Since they did not like the outcome, they don't want parliament to pick its president...They are forcing things in such a way that maybe we should repeat elections," he added.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's conservative government dissolved Catalonia's parliament, called the early election and imposed direct rule over the region after Catalonia's assembly on October 27 unilaterally declared independence.
It has vowed to resist any bid to break the region away from Spain and called on Catalan separatist parties to appoint a candidate for president who does not face prosecution.
Sanchez, the former leader of influential grassroots separatist organization ANC, has asked Spain's Supreme Court for permission to leave jail to be sworn in as Catalan president on Monday.
Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena, who leads the investigation into Sanchez, on Wednesday gave prosecutors five days to present their arguments regarding his request, meaning a ruling before the Catalan parliament meets on Monday is not certain.
"He could give his ruling before the session, technically it is possible," a Supreme Court spokesman told AFP.
Sanchez's bid has the support of Catalonia's two main separatist parties, Puigdemont's Together for Catalonia and the leftist ERC, but it also needs the backing of the small, anti-capitalist CUP party which has four seats in the Catalan parliament.