Exit polls show that separatist parties are winning a majority of the votes in Catalonia’s regional elections.
The local elections are described as a quasi-referendum on separation from Spain.
The potential victory for the pro-independence parties in the regional parliament will be setting the region on a collision course with Spain’s central government over independence.
The main secessionist group “Junts pel Si” (Together for Yes) would get between 63 and 66 seats in the 135-strong assembly, while the smaller leftist party CUP would secure another 11 to 13 seats, according to an exit poll released by local broadcaster TV3, the largest carried out.
They would jointly obtain 49.8 percent of the vote.
Both parties have said that if they win a majority, they will unilaterally declare independence within 18 months, under a plan that would see the new Catalan authorities approving their own constitution and building institutions like an army, central bank and judicial system.
The central government in Madrid says it would block the independence move in court because the Spanish constitution does not allow it.
The center-right government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, which has opposed attempts to hold a referendum on secession, has called the breakaway plan “nonsense.”
Leader of Spain’s autonomous Catalonia region Artur Mas has said the only way forward for Catalonia is a split from Spain. He said that the region will not need a referendum to secure independence if pro-independence candidates win the elections.
Many Catalans in favor of independence from Spain believe the region would be more prosperous on its own.
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