Catalan nationalists 'lead poll'
Sunday, 25 November 2012 21:46
Catalan nationalists 'lead poll'Nationalists complain the central government does not treat them well

Nationalists in the Spanish region of Catalonia are set to win in regional elections, partial results show.

With more than 95% of the votes counted, the ruling CiU had 50 seats, short of an absolute majority. The separatist left-wing ERC had 21 seats.

Both are nationalists keen to hold a referendum on whether the region should break away from the rest of Spain.

Madrid says Catalan nationalists are looking for excuses after nearly running out of money.

Catalan President Artur Mas called early elections amid a funding row with the central government; it says he is trying to exploit the economic crisis.

European membership?

Mr Mas says the wealthy and influential north-eastern region gets a raw funding deal from the central government. His centre-right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU) argues a Catalan state would fare better as a member of the EU than a province of Spain.

The nationalist Republican Left (ERC) was on course to double its current share.

Map of Catalonia in Spain

The European flag has been prominent at Mr Mas's campaign rallies, and he says an independent Catalonia would quickly gain membership of the 27-member bloc.

The CiU ousted the Socialist party in elections in November 2010.

As results began coming in, Mr Mas said he would begin consultations and wants to put the question of an independence bid on the table of negotiations.

With 135 parliamentary seats available, Mr Mas knows that if he is to pursue his dream of an independent Catalonia, he will need a clear mandate from voters, says the BBC's Tom Burridge, in Barcelona.

If not, Mr Mas will have to rely on the support of smaller pro-independence parties, our correspondent says.

Even then, the road to independence is far from straightforward.

A referendum would be illegal under the current Spanish constitution, and Spain's ruling Popular Party is likely to block any attempts for constitutional change.

Other parties, such as the nationalist Ciutadans, the Popular Party of Catalonia and the Socialist Party of Catalonia are all opposed to Catalonia's independence bid.

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