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Catalan leader claims election victory for pro-independence parties


Voters go to the polls in Barcelona (AP)

Voters go to the polls in Barcelona (AP)

Voters go to the polls in Barcelona (AP)

Catalonia leader Artur Mas has claimed victory in a parliamentary election for parties pushing for independence from Spain.

W ith 91% of the vote counted, the "Together for Yes" group of secessionists is projected to win 62 seats in the 135-member parliament, while the radical Popular Unity Candidacy Party is headed for 10 seats, meaning a combined majority.

Speaking to a jubilant crown, Mr Mas said: "There are two victories tonight, one for 'Yes' and another for democracy."

Secessionists have long pushed for an independence referendum, but Spain's central government refused to allow it, saying such a vote would be unconstitutional, so the pro-independence parties pitched the vote for regional parliamentary seats as a de facto plebiscite.

The results suggest the Popular Unity Candidacy Party (CUP) would emerge as a kingmaker in negotiations to push an independence effort forward that the central government in Madrid says would be illegal.

The government of prime minister Mariano Rajoy says it will use all legal means to prevent Catalonia from breaking away, an exit European leaders have warned would include ejection from the European Union despite claims by secession supporters that a way may be found for an independent Catalonia to stay.

Spain's government has said a breakaway by Catalonia would be unconstitutional and would disrupt the fragile signs of economic recovery for a country that has endured unemployment of over 22% for several years.

PA Media