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Ciudadanos wins Catalan election but pro-independence parties keep overall majority

Supporters of Catalan independence celebrate on Thursday night.
Supporters of Catalan independence celebrate on Thursday night. / REUTERS
  • JuntxCAt, ERC and CUP together hold 70 seats, enough to govern if they can reach an agreement

  • Spanish PM's conservative Partido Popular lost eight seats, becoming the smallest political group in the regional parliament

Spain's young centre-right party Ciudadanos won Thursday's regional election in Catalonia gaining the highest number of votes (1,098,293) and seats (37 of 135). However, the party headed in the region by Inés Arrimadas, firmly against independence, is unlikely to govern.

The different groups in favour of secession maintain an overall majority with their combined seats (JuntxCAt, 34, ERC, 32 and CUP, 4) and, if they reach an agreement, will regain control of the regional government, the Generalitat. Former leader Carles Puigdemont's group Junts per Catalunya was the second most-voted party, beating ERC (Esquerra Republicana) in votes and seats and proving opinion polls wrong.

Inés Arrimadas.

Inés Arrimadas. / AFP

However, who will become the next Catalan president is not clear; Puigdemont is still a fugitive from Spanish law having left the country following the illegal referendum and declaration of independence in October.

If he returns to Spain, as he has promised, he will be arrested.

Despite her victory with 26% of votes, Inés Arrimadas' potential partners in a pro-Spain government failed to gain sufficient support. The Catalan Socialists have 17 seats, one more than in the previous 2015 election, but the Partido Popular - Spain's ruling party - has fallen catastrophically, going from eleven to just three seats.

The constitutional bloc's combined 57 seats fall short of the 68 needed for an overall majority.