Voters Back Pro-Independence Parties In Catalonia

Voters Back Pro-Independence Parties In Catalonia

Millions headed to the polls in Thursday s crucial vote on the regional parliament which was called by Madrid after it declared October s Catalan independence referendum illegal. Together with the 36 seats of the two other pro-independence parties, the separatists are headed for an absolute majority in the 135-seat regional parliament.

Rajoy responded by invoking the never-before-used article 155 to take control of Catalonia, sack the regional government and call the elections.

Former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont couldn't vote in the election because he's now in self-exile in Belgium, but he and his party won yesterday's elections in Catalonia, exit polls show.

"I want to congratulate the Catalan people", Puigdemont said at a press conference in Belgium, where he fled to and is staying in a self-imposed exile.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said that a decision had been made to relieve Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and his government of their duties. A unionist party, Ciudadanos, was the official victor, taking the most seats, but close behind it were two pro-independence parties, Together for Catalonia and the Catalan Republican Left.

However, Ciudadanos, the anti-independence party, won the majority of the vote to become the largest party, while pro-independence parties only won 48% of the vote.

The judiciary had also pressed charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of funds against the secessionist leaders, forcing them to campaign from exile and behind bars. However Spain s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy later appeared to reject the idea the BBC reported. There was no immediate comment from Rajoy after the election results. "Independence has won but in a way similar to 2015 - majority of seats but not in votes".

The anti-independence Citizens party is now the region s biggest party although pro-independence parties are best placed to form a government.

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There were around 50 Catalans and 35 Flemish independence supporters whose party has backed them - but they were outnumbered by journalists.

Puigdemont is now expected to form Catalonia's next government, in coaltion with separatist parties ERC and CUP.

Mr Rajoy has refused to engage in dialogue with pro-independence leaders until they agree to limit their political goals within Spain's constitution - which bans unilateral secession of any of the country's 17 autonomous regions.

The yield on Spanish 10-year government bonds was 3.4% higher, at 1.521% as at 0709 GMT. Rajoy's bet backfires Puigdemont and his allies also want a meeting with European Union representatives, in the hope that Europe will now listen to their independence movement.

The vote is the latest chapter in Spain's worst political crisis since its return to democracy four decades ago.

Rajoy noted the election results showed a diversity of support on both sides of the independence issue.

In September, Catalonia held a referendum on independence from Spain.

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