An exit poll has predicted that pro-independence parties in Spain’s Catalonia region are on course to win a majority of seats in the regional parliamentary election.
Despite the projected results, it is unclear whether the parties will be able to come together to push for a plan to secede from Spain.
The exit poll by Catalonia’s TV3 channel showed the “Together for Yes” group of secessionists winning 63-66 seats in the 135-member parliament. That is short of the 68 seats they needed for a majority to push forward their plan to make Catalonia independent from Spain by 2017.
But the radical left pro-independence Popular Unity Candidacy party is projected to win 11 to 13 seats. The two parties could join forces after negotiations.
Polls have closed in Catalonia and votes are being tallied. Final results are expected late on Sunday or early Monday.
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 central government of prime minister Mariano Rajoy says it will use all legal means to prevent Catalonia from breaking away, an exit European leaders warn would include ejection from the European Union.
Spain’s government has also said it is concerned that if Catalonia tries to break free it would disrupt the fragile signs of economic recovery for the country that has endured unemployment of over 22% for several years.
Catalans from both sides of the independence divide are fiercely proud of the Catalan language, which is spoken along with Spanish and was suppressed under three decades of General Franco’s dictatorship.
Many Catalans are also angry because they say their industrialised region, which represents nearly a fifth of Spain’s economic output, pays too much in taxes and receives less than its fair share of government investment.