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21 Dec, 2017 10:31

Separatists & unionists face off in election that could decide Catalonia’s future

Separatists & unionists face off in election that could decide Catalonia’s future

Catalans are heading to the polls as pro-independence parties pit themselves against unionists in a highly-anticipated election that will determine what comes next for Catalonia’s separatist movement.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy called the election in October after the Catalonian government in Barcelona declared its independence following an illegal referendum. Spain responded by suspending the region’s autonomy and firing its government.  

The vote will be divided along the region’s separatist and unionist party lines. The pro-independence parties are the Together for Catalonia (JxCat), headed by deposed regional president Carles Puigdemont, Esquerra Republicana (ERC) and Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP). The unionist parties are the People’s Party (PP), Ciutadans (Cs) and the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC). The Catalonia in Common party remains in the middle on the issue.

A hung parliament is expected, which will see coalition negotiations take place before a government can be formed.

Puigdemont is in Brussels, where he fled as the attorney general sought charges of rebellion and misuse of public funds against him after the declaration of independence. Although he has said he would return to Catalonia if he wins, he is likely to be arrested.

A number of independence politicians are in prison, also as part of an investigation into the October events.

Results are expected late Thursday, but won’t be officially declared until January 5. Article 155 of the Spanish constitution, which allows it to have direct rule over Catalonia, will remain in effect until a new government is in place.

Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy says he hopes today will return Catalonia to what he calls "normality" under a unionist government or separatist government that will not seek a unilateral split.

However, Puigdemont told reporters in Brussels: "Today is not a normal… democratic day: there are candidates in jail, there is fear... but we're hoping that by the end of the day we'll be back to some normality."