Over five million Catalans headed to the polls on Thursday to vote in the regional elections, which could prove decisive for the future of Catalonia, where parties in favour and against independence are vying for a majority in the regional parliament.
The elections were called by the Spanish government after the regional government was dissolved following the declaration of independence on October 27, reported Efe news. After the ‘independence declaration’, the Spanish Senate swiftly responded to the Catalan independence declaration by voting to invoke Article 155 of the country's Constitution.
The heads of the two major pro-independence parties - former regional president Carles Puigdemont and his former vice president Oriol Junqueras - have not been able to campaign in Catalonia.
“This is not a normal election,” Puigdemont said from Brussels.
“What is at stake is not who gets the most votes, but whether the country [Catalonia] or Rajoy wins.”
But according to analysts, whatever be the election results, they are unlikely to do dispel the political crisis that has grappled the Spanish state. The region is witnessing heavy police deployments with authorities banning observers from displaying political symbols - including the yellow ribbons worn to express support for Catalonia’s jailed politicians.
Election surveys indicate towards a hung parliament with the pro-independence bloc - made up of the Esquerra Republicana (ERC) of jailed former vice-president Oriol Junqueras, Junts Per Catalunya (JxCato) of the ex-president Carles Puigdemont and the hard Left CUP - getting between 63 to 66 seats.
Meanwhile the unionist bloc - Ciudadanos, led in Catalonia by Ines Arrimadas, the Socialist Party of Catalonia (PSC) and the national ruling Popular Party (PP) - are forecast to take between 57 and 61 seats, the survey notes.
Polling booths opened at 9 a.m. and are due to close at 8 p.m. to allow the 55,54,395 eligible voters to elect 135 representatives to the regional parliament.
Surveys predict a turnout of around 80 percent even though the election is on a working day, something that has not happened in Spain since the general elections in 1982.
This is the fourth time in seven years that the general elections have been held in Catalonia after 2010, 2012 and 2015.
(with inputs from IANS)