Exit polls suggest current Catalan President Artur Más and his conservative Convergence and Union party will win Sunday’s regional election, maintaining its coalition but with a smaller majority.
The party is expected to win up to 57 of the 135 seats in the regional assembly. That’s down from its current 62 seats and far from the absolute majority it planned.
Another separatist party the Republican Left of Catalonia is expected to come second. According to Spain’s TV3, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s popular party will be joint third.
Más is now expected to push ahead with plans for a referendum calling for Catalan independence from Spain.
Ahead of the election, polls showed two thirds of voters would cast ballots for parties that wanted to break away from Madrid. Frustration over high unemployment and a deep recession has fuelled a separatist resurgence.