Separatists winning in Catalonia, Spain: early results
By Fiona Ortiz and Braden Phillips
BARCELONA, Spain (Reuters) - Four separatist parties in Spain's Catalonia looked set to win a majority in regional elections on Sunday, partial results showed, but the main one was on course to lose some seats, possibly undermining its bid to call an independence referendum.
With half of votes counted, the ruling Convergence and Union alliance, or CiU, was winning 48 seats in the 135-seat local parliament, well down from its current 62 seats.
The separatist Republican Left, or ERC, was winning 20 seats, with two other smaller separatist parties taking a total of 16 seats, giving the four parties 60 percent between them.
Regional President Artur Mas, of CiU, had campaigned on a pledge to hold a referendum on independence, in response to a resurgent separatist movement among Catalans who are frustrated with Spain in a deep economic crisis.
Opinion polls had forecast that CiU would retain 62 or more seats in the local Parliament and that all four separatist parties would have more than two-thirds of the seats. Neither of those projections was met as the results began to come in.
Without the psychological backing of a two-thirds majority, analysts have said, it may be hard for Mas to defy the constitution and the central government in Madrid and try to hold a referendum.
Turnout was very high in the election, 68 percent, 10 percentage point higher than in the previous vote two years ago.
With more people than Denmark and an economy almost as big as Portugal's, Catalonia has its own language. Like Basques, Catalans see themselves as distinct from the rest of Spain. Continued...