With 95 percent of the votes counted, the three main parties pledging to carve out an independent Catalan state were likely to increase their number of seats in the regional parliament to 74.
The pro-union Socialist Party has appeared set to claim a narrow win in regional elections in Catalonia, but the bloc of parties supporting secession by Spain’s northeastern corner has been widening their control of the regional parliament.
With 95 percent of the votes counted, the three main parties pledging to carve out an independent Catalan state were likely to increase their number of seats in the regional parliament to 74. In 2017, those same parties won 70 seats of the 135-seat chamber, just two above the majority.
The Socialist party led by former health minister Salvador Illa was poised to take 33 seats with over 625,000 votes.
The pro-secession Republican Left of Catalonia was also set to claim 33 seats, but with 530,000 votes.
The parliament also was poised to become more fragmented, and more radical.
The far-right Vox party entered the Catalan legislature for the first time with 11 seats, confirming its surge across Spain in recent years. Its success came at the expense of the conservative Popular Party, which was left with three seats after a campaign in which it softened its formerly hard-line stance against Catalan secessionists.
On the other side of the spectrum, the far-left, pro-secession CUP party improved to nine seats from the four it won in 2017.
The pro-secession forces will need the unpredictable CUP to form a government with a majority.
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Rise & eventual electoral victory of @socialistes_cat with the 80% of votes counted.— Javi López (@javilopezEU) February 14, 2021
The catalans voted change, they voted @socialistes_cat, they voted @salvadorilla. A solid, progressive project of reconciliation and dialogue. We will win the elections, today Catalonia is back. https://t.co/iCyYPufSow
The results for the first shifted the power within the pro-secession bloc to the leftist Republic Left of Catalonia party, which edged out the center-right Together for Catalonia, which was set to win 32 seats.
The Republic Left of Catalonia, led by the jailed Oriol Junqueras, can dispute the leadership of the bloc with Together for Catalonia, the party of former Catalan chief Carles Puigdemont, who fled to Belgium following the ineffective October 2017 breakaway bid.
Together for Catalonia maintains a more radical stance on breaking away from Spain in the short term, while the Republic Left of Catalonia has lowered its tone over the past year and set winning an amnesty from central authorities for Junqueras and other jailed leaders as its top priority – for now.
Biggest political crisis
Salvador Illa, Spain's health minister until last month, was the leading candidate on the ticket of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez's Socialist Party. Illa was hoping to end the hold that pro-independence lawmakers have held in the regional parliament for the past decade.
Some 5.3 million people were eligible to vote.
The goal of separatists is to not only maintain their slim majority of the Catalan parliament based in Barcelona, but also try to break the 50 percent barrier of the popular vote for the first time.
The wealthy region, with its own language spoken alongside Spanish, has been the source of Spain’s biggest political crisis in decades since separatists leaders failed in a 2017 secession bid in defiance of court warnings that it was unconstitutional. Several of those leaders ended up in prison, while others fled to other European countries.
Virus fears, rainy weather and the relatively calmer political climate compared to the last election in December 2017 tamped down on turnout. By 6:00 (1700GMT) pm, turnout was 45 percent compared to 68 percent four years ago.
And a potential future regional government will likely hinge on deal-making between parties that could take days or longer to conclude.
Even if the separatists hold their majority in Catalonia's regional legislature, there is no guarantee they will overcome the infighting that broke out in their coalition government as the dream of independence remained elusive.
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