Catalans vote Sunday in regional parliamentary elections that the breakaway camp hopes will give them a mandate to put their region on a path toward independence – a goal the Madrid central government says would be illegal.
Opinion polls are predicting that the majority of seats in the local Parliament will be won by pro-independence parties, which may force a vote on a referendum. “We won”, Catalan’s regional president Artur Mas told supporters in Barcelona.
Raul Romeva, the lead candidate in the main pro-independence list, told reporters his Together For Yes alliance along with the radical left-wing group CUP “have a majority which totally legitimises initialising the process” towards declaring independence.
Among parties opposed to independence, pro-market Ciudadanos, often cited as a national kingmaker, emerged as the only victor as it jumped to 18 percent of the vote.
Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy says he is ready to listen to Catalonia’s new regional government after the separatist victory in Sunday’s polls – but will not discuss Spain’s unity. They were able to still win the majority of seats because Catalonia gives greater weight to votes from pro-independence rural areas with fewer voters.
We have a clear, absolute majority in the Catalan parliament to go ahead.
“He said: “[Rajoy] called the elections because he said that most of Catalonia was with him.
Catalans living in the US, Mexico, Chile and part of China won’t be able to to take part in the elections because their ballot papers didn’t arrive on time and the electoral watchdog refused to extend the deadline, Meritxell Borras, the Catalan government’s institutional relations chief, said Saturday.
The Spanish government has repeatedly said it will not allow secession to happen, because it’s a violation of the country’s constitution that Spanish high courts would strike down.
However, with his ruling Popular Party (PP) facing defeat in national election, which must be held before the end of the year, Rajoy may need to offer Catalonia’s leaders concessions on taxes and spending.
European Union leaders have also suggested that an independent Catalonia will be cut off from the bloc and from the euro currency zone.
The powerful region contains 7.5 million people and includes Barcelona.
The Popular Party and the Socialists, who won 16 seats, were overtaken by the anti-independence Citizens party, which won 25 seats, up from nine.
However, CUP said it could not condone Mas as president of Catalonia, in order to avoid “cuts and corruption”.