"Catalans have voted yes to independence," acting regional government head Artur Mas told supporters, with secessionist parties securing 72 out of 135 seats in the powerful region of 7.5 million people that includes Barcelona.
The strong pro-independence showing dealt a blow to Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, three months before a national election. His centre-right government, which has opposed attempts to hold a referendum on secession, has called the separatist plan 'a nonsense' and vowed to block it in court.
Spain's constitution does not allow any region to break away, so the prospect remains highly hypothetical.
The main secessionist group 'Junts pel Si' (Together for Yes) won 62 seats, while the smaller leftist CUP party got another 10, according to official results.
They jointly obtained 47.8 percent of the vote in a record turnout of 78 percent, a big boost to an independence campaign that has been losing support over the last two years.
Both had said before the vote that such a result would allow them to unilaterally declare independence within 18 months, under a plan that would see the new Catalan authorities approving their own constitution and building institutions like an army, central bank and judicial system.
Despite the separatist victory, analysts believe the most likely outcome of the election will be to force a dialogue between Catalan and Spanish authorities.
Opinion polls show a majority of Catalans would like to remain within Spain if the region were offered a more favorable tax regime and laws that better protect language and culture.


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