A coalition of separatists who promised independence for the Spanish region of Catalonia emerged as victors in parliamentary elections Sunday.
With 99 per cent of the votes counted, the separatist alliance led by Catalan leader Artur Mas captured 72 seats of the 135 seats up for grabs in Catalonia’s parliament.
Of those seats, Mas’ Together for Yes coalition took 62, while its alliance partners Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP) party won 10.
“We have won,” Mas said once results were tallied.
But while the alliance won an absolute majority in parliament, it did not win the majority of votes cast, taking 47.8 per cent.
“The separatists have lost the plebiscite,” Socialist opposition leader Pedro Sanchez said in reaction to the separatists’ failure to win the majority of votes.
Voters in Spain’s wealthy, north-eastern region cast their ballots in what was billed by Mas as a referendum on whether the region should secede from Spain.
Mas had formed the separatist alliance ahead of the elections, saying that his coalition’s victory would mean independence for Catalonia’s 7.6 million people within 18 months.
Mas’ liberal ruling party, the Democratic Convergence of Catalonia (CDC), joined long-time rivals in the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) and other citizen groups to form the Together for Yes coaltion.
In order to achieve the 68 seats required for an absolute majority, Mas’ coalition could align itself with the left-wing separatists of the CUPparty.
Approximately 77 per cent of the region’s 5.5 million eligible voters turned out for the election, beating the turnout for the last regional election in 2012 by nearly 10 percentage points.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has said his government would under no circumstances allow Catalonia’s secession.
“No one will destroy the unity of Spain,” he said.
EU politicians have suggested that an independent Catalonia would have to be automatically cut out from the European Union and the eurozone currency bloc.
Mas wanted to hold a referendum for independence in November of last year, but the Spanish Constitutional Court declared such a vote illegal after Madrid filed a complaint.