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Ex-Catalan leader claims win for separatist bloc

Disputed Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont has declared victory for the pro-independence bloc in the regional election.

Mr Puigdemont’s Together for Catalonia party claimed 34 seats, while the other two pro-independence parties won a combined 36.

That total gives separatists two more seats than the 68 needed for an absolute majority – ensuring that they retain control of Catalonia’s regional government.

Despite this, unionist party Citizens topped the poll and won 37 seats.

::‘Families are torn apart’ – Catalonia divided as voters go to the polls

People react to results in Catalonia's regional elections at a gathering of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) in Barcelona, Spain December 21, 2017. REUTERS/Albert Gea TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Image:Turnout was predicted at 82%

Catalonia went to the polls after its government was dissolved by Madrid who deemed its declaration of independence in October “illegal”.

Mr Puigdemont says Thursday’s majority by separatist parties was a victory for the “Catalan republic” over the Spanish state, and said Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and his allies “have lost”.

The ousted Catalan leader was speaking from Brussels, where he went into self-imposed exile after his government was sacked by Mr Rajoy when he declared independence from Spain.

Video:Puigdemont: The Spanish state has been beaten

“This is a result which no one can dispute,” Mr Puigdemont told supporters in Brussels.

“I think we have earned our right to be listened to.”

:: Catalonia Independence: The political divide in Barcelona

Mr Puigdemont said it was “a slap” for the Spanish PM, adding: “Rajoy has lost the mandate he sought.”

BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 29: Protesters wave Spanish flags during a pro-unity demonstration on October 29, 2017 in Barcelona, Spain. Thousands of pro-unity protesters gather in Barcelona, two days after the Catalan Parliament voted to split from Spain. The Spanish government has responded by imposing direct rule and dissolving the Catalan parliament. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
Video:Catalonia Independence: The view from Madrid

The leader of the pro-Spanish party that won the most votes promised her party will continue to fight the region’s separatists.

“The pro-secession forces can never again claim they speak for all of Catalonia,” Ines Arrimadas said.

“We are going to keep fighting for a peaceful co-existence, common sense and for a Catalonia for all Catalans.”

“Today we have sent a message to the world, that the majority of Catalans feel Catalan, Spanish and European and will continue to do so,” she added.

More from Catalonia

It is unclear what Mr Puigdemont’s next move will be, and Sky’s Europe Correspondent Mark Stone said the ousted leader is still at risk of being arrested when he returns to Spain.

“There is no longer an international arrest warrant out for him, but there is a domestic arrest warrant and up until the point of this election the Spanish authorities were clear that if he were to return to Spain, he would be arrested.”

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