The Catalonian independence movement looks set to secure a big victory in a key election for the region’s push to secede from Spain.
The Spanish government called a snap parliamentary election in the region after Catalonian leaders held a banned independence referendum. Left-wing parties ERC and CUP are on track to win 70 seats, an absolute majority in the 135-member parliament. Centrist pro-unity party Ciudadanos received the most votes, but fell short of being able to form an administration.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy expected to increase Madrid’s control and shut down any attempts to break away from the country. The surprising outcome could now instead legitimize the referendum.
“The Spanish state has been defeated,” ousted Catalan President Carles Puigdemont said as he claimed victory. “Mariano Rajoy has received a slap in the face from Catalonia.”
Puigdemont has campaigned from Brussels, where he fled after Spanish authorities took legal action against Catalan leaders. Local politicians face charges of rebellion, sedition and embezzlement, crimes that could land them in prison for up to 30 years.
Both Spain and Catalonia have been hit hard in the aftermath of the referendum. More than 3,000 companies have moved their headquarters from the region and direct foreign investment fell by 75 percent in one quarter, compared to the same time a year earlier.
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