BARCELONA – Pro-independence parties will again command a majority in the Catalan parliament following Thursday’s elections in the northeastern Spanish region.
More than 81 percent of the 5.5 million eligible voters cast ballots, a record for any election in Spain’s modern history.
The vote took place under special circumstances, called by the central government in Madrid after it dissolved the previous Catalan parliament following an Oct. 1 regional separatist referendum deemed illegal by the Spanish judiciary and the subsequent unilateral declaration of independence on Oct. 27.
The three parties that formed the previous pro-independence government: Together for Catalunya (JxCat); the Republican Left of Catalunya (ERC); and the Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP), will together have 70 of the 135 seats in the regional legislature, according to provisional official results.
Ciudadanos, a center-right party opposed to Catalan independence, led all parties with more than 1 million votes, translating into 37 seats.
The regional branch of Spain’s main opposition Socialists picked up one seat to increase their representation to 17, while the Catalan wing of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s Popular Party suffered badly, going from 11 seats to just three.
The leaders of the two main pro-independence parties, former regional President Carles Puigdemont (JxCat) and erstwhile Vice President Oriol Junqueras (ERC), were both re-elected to parliament.
They are among the 18 Catalan lawmakers facing potential criminal charges in connection with the referendum and declaration of independence.
Puigdemont, who fled to Belgium along with four other members of his former government to escape arrest, declined to vote at the Spanish Embassy in Brussels.
Junqueras, meanwhile, cast a postal vote from the prison near Madrid where he has been held since Nov. 2 on charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds.
In light of the election results, the Catalan administration that was ousted in late October should be reinstated, Puigdemont said Thursday night at an event in Brussels.
“The Catalan republic has defeated the monarchy of 155,” he said, referring to the article of the Spanish constitution that allowed the central government to assume direct control of Catalonia.
Ines Arrimadas, who headed the Ciudadanos ticket, said that her party’s strong showing represented a vote for union, co-existence and “solidarity.”
It will be up to Spanish Supreme Court Judge Pablo Llarena to decide whether the jailed Catalan lawmakers who won re-election on Thursday will be able to take their seats and, if so, on what terms.
Puigdemont, however, is highly unlikely to take his seat, as he would be arrested immediately if he were to return to Spain.
This is the fourth time in seven years that elections have been held in Catalonia after 2010, 2012 and 2015.