Catalan pro-independence parties regain majority in elections

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy holds a press conference in Madrid Spain 22 December 2017

"The Spanish Constitution abhors separatism and now the Catalonian parliamentary majority will have to choose between democracy that prioritizes the will of the voters and the rule of law that is on the side of the country's territorial integrity", he said.

"We've at least won the right to be heard", he said, adding that he was open to returning to Spain if guarantees were given that he could take his position as head of a potential new Catalan government. "It is impossible to find solutions without dialogue".

Mr Puigdemont said that it was indisputable that separatists had won yesterday's key regional vote.

After several strained months that saw secessionists organise an illegal referendum on October 1, and police confiscate urns to try to prevent it from taking place, the election result has done nothing to resolve the standoff either.

Calling the election results a "slap in the face" for Rajoy, Puigdemont said: "We must completely change the recipe because it doesn't work any more".

By risking an election in the wealthy region, Rajoy appears to have made the same mistake that leaders such as Greece's Alexis Tsipras.

Inés Arrimadas, the leader of Catalonia's Ciudadanos (or Ciutadans, "Citizens") party, celebrated with supporters in Barcelona as the results of Thursday's regional election came in.

"More companies leaving, less economic activity there - and worse for everyone", said the chief executive of a major listed Spanish company, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the tense climate of the independence debate.

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Repatriation of its foreign workers may also cut down vital sources of foreign currency and investment to the country's market economy.

"The one with whom I would sit down is the one who won the election, Ines Arrimadas", he told journalists in Madrid. The Citizens party is now the region's biggest party, although pro-independence parties are best placed to form a government.

With almost all votes counted, the pro-independence parties Puigdemont's Together for Catalonia, the Republican Left of Catalonia and Popular Unity were on course to win a total of 70 seats in total, giving them a majority in the new parliament. Puigdemont's Junts per Catalunya (Together for Catalonia) was seen winning 34 of those seats, ahead of two other separatist parties.

He proposed a meeting to Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish prime minister, "in any European Union country, except Spain, for obvious reasons".

Asked whether he accepted responsibility for the disastrous poll showing of his conservative People's party, whose presence in the Catalan parliament was reduced from 11 seats to three, Rajoy replied: "The prime minister accepts responsibility for anything that happens to the People's party, just as all members of the People's party across Spain do".

It won't be enough to put them in government but it will give the party a strong voice in parliament. However, past squabbles between them suggest it won't be easy. "As there's a lack of stability here, people who were investing here are going to other cities and other regions", said Rafael Prisco, commercial director in a real estate agent in central Barcelona that deals mostly with foreign clients.

The more than 80 percent of Catalans who turned out to vote had something else in mind.

A day after the pro-Independence parties declared victory in the Catalan regional elections, Spanish Supreme Court Judge Pablo Llarena has indicted Friday several leaders of those parties in the case of the rebellion against the Spanish throne after the former Catalan government declared independence in October.

When the Catalan parliament declared independence after the referendum, Rajoy invoked constitutional powers to impose direct rule from Madrid.

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