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Catalan elections: Separatists boost majority in regional parliament

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Officials recount postal vote's ballots after closing a polling station in the Ninot market in Barcelona during regional elections in Catalonia on February 14, 2021.
Officials recount postal vote's ballots after closing a polling station in the Ninot market in Barcelona during regional elections in Catalonia on February 14, 2021.   -   Copyright  LLUIS GENE / AFP
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Separatist parties in Catalonia have boosted their parliamentary majority in the regional elections, held amid a third wave of coronavirus.

The pro-union Socialist Party, led by former health minister Salvador Illa, won the most votes to claim a narrow victory, but will struggle to form a government.

With 99% of the votes counted, the three main parties working toward an independence from Spain increased their number of seats in the 135-seat regional parliament to 74. In 2017 they won 70.

The Socialist party of Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez looked set to take 33 seats with 625,000 votes, but would require help from other parties - including pro-independence ones - to form a majority.

The pro-independence Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) was set for 33 seats as well, with 580,000 votes. The centre-right Together for Catalonia (JxC), won 32 seats. The far-left, pro-secession CUP party won nine seats.

The separatist parties therefore once again have the seats to form a majority in the Parliament, and negotiations over how that government will come together are expected to be held over the next few days.

The result potentially boosts pro-independence power in Catalonia, a region that saw an illegal referendum on independence held in 2017, sparking a national crisis.

The far-right Vox party entered the Catalan parliament for the first time with 11 seats, continuing its surge across Spain in recent years.

Aside from the arithmetic, the election will be remembered for being held in the midst of a third wave of coronavirus.

Stringent safety measures were put in place, with polling workers in protective gear and voter use of face masks and hand disinfectant mandatory.

Video editor • Michael Daventry