Three separatist groupings have won an absolute majority in the Catalan regional elections, but unionist Ciutadanos has emerged as the largest single party in the parliament. With nearly all votes counted the three pro-independence formations had won 70 seats out of 135, granting them an absolute majority. Junts per Catalunya, the party of the former President of the Catalan Executive, Carles Puigdemont, won 34 seats, left-wing Esquerra Republicana won 32 seats and 4 seats went to the far-left CUP party. On the unionist side, Ciutadanos took 37 seats, the socialists won 17, while PP, the party of Mariano Rajoy, suffered its worst ever result in the region winning only three seats, down from 11 last time. At 82 percent it was the highest ever turnout for Catalan regional elections.
The separatist leader in exile Carles Puigdemont hailed the victory of the independence camp, stressing that it is “a result that nobody can refute”. In his speech, he also declared that “the Catalan republic had won” and “the monarchy had been defeated.” Puigdemont made his comments in Brussels where he exiled himself after facing charges of sedition and rebellion for organising an independence referendum in Catalonia that was deemed to be illegal by the Spanish Constitutional Court. Thursday’s vote was called by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy after his government sacked Puigdemont’s administration and imposed direct rule on Barcelona from Madrid.
Although they may be sitting on the opposition benches Ciutadanos will still feel like the night’s big winners. Formed just over ten years ago, the party has grown by leaps and bounds as it has positioned itself as the voice of resistance to Catalan independence. They have been congratulated for their victory by several European leaders including Guy Verhofstadt, president of the ALDE centrist group in the European Parliament to which Ciutadanos belongs. Verhofstadt tweeted: “The hardest challenge remains: finding a common way to heal the Catalan society. Generosity from everyone has to prevail now”
A spokesman for the European Commission said that the EU’s position on Catalonia “will not change”. “Our position on the question of Catalonia is well known and has been reiterated regularly, and at all levels. It will not change,” said Alexander Winterstein. “As for a regional election, we have no comment to make.”