Spain: Polls close in regional elections as Catalan independence parties claim victory

Voting closed in Hospitalet de Llobregat near Barcelona on Sunday for Spain's regional elections, with Catalan independence parties claiming victory. Maria Antonia Vinyals, an official from the pro-independence ‘Junts pel Si’ (Together for Yes) coalition, said the voters were “excited” to take part in the election. Catalonia President Artur Mas and his 'Junts pel Si' allies claimed victory in the election as exit polls suggested that the pro-Catalan independence parties have gained a parliamentary majority in Sunday’s regional election. The elections have been dominated by calls from Catalan separatists to secede from the Spanish state should pro-independence parties gain a majority in the regional parliament. Mas' Convergencia Democratica de Catalunya (CDC) party and Esquerra Republicana have gone to the polls with a single list of candidates under the name 'Junts pel Si' (Together for Yes). The coalition plans to pursue the independence of the region from Spain if they achieve an absolute majority either alone or with the support of small parties. In order to gain a majority at least 68 out of the 135 seats in the Catalan Parliament must be won. The latest exit polls suggest that the alliance has won between 63 and 66 seats. The leftist-separatist Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP) is predicted to win a further 11 to 13 seats, with an alliance between the groups to fight for independence. After the 2014 unofficial referendum on Catalan independence ended in a resounding win in favour of seceding from the Spanish state, strident refusals from Madrid to accept proposals for separation followed. If the pro-independence parties gain a majority in the regional elections, campaigners have called for a declaration of independence directly after the results have been announced.