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Separatist party wins EU vote in Spain's Catalonia

The Republican Left, a long-standing separatist party, has won the European Parliament elections in Spain's northeastern region of Catalonia on Sunday.

BARCELONA: Long-standing separatist party, the Republican Left, won the European Parliament elections in Spain's northeastern region of Catalonia on Sunday, official results showed.

The party captured 23.67 per cent of the vote, beating the conservative Convergence and Union party, the biggest formation in Catalonia's local parliament, which came in second with 21.86 per cent of the vote.

Both parties want to hold a referendum on independence from Spain on November 9, flying in the face of fierce opposition from the central government in Madrid.

The two formed a political alliance a month after regional elections in Catalonia in November 2012 but Convergence and Union is seen as more moderate and less ready to risk all-out confrontation with Madrid.

Catalonia political chief Artur Mas of the Convergence and Union party only began pushing for a referendum after he failed to clinch a better financial pact from the central government for Catalonia in 2012.

The small Catalan leftist ICV party captured 10.3 per cent of the vote in the European Parliament elections, meaning the three Catalan parties that back the referendum captured 55.83 percent of the vote in Catalonia.

"This as you can understand strengthens the political process in favour of the right to decide and the consultation and strengthens the fact that we want to vote on November 9," said Mas after the results of the European Parliament election were published.

Voter turnout in Catalonia jumped to 47.6 per cent from 36.9 per cent in the 2009 EU elections.

"All the forces which want November 9 to go ahead obtained excellent results," said Republican Left candidate Josep Maria Terricabras in a reference to the planned independence referendum.

Proud of their distinct language and culture, a growing number of Catalonia's 7.5 million citizens resent the redistribution of their taxes to other parts of Spain and believe the region would be better off on its own.

The 2008 real estate crash that triggered a five-year economic downturn across Spain has added to the pressure for secession over the past two years.

Polls indicate a slim majority of Catalans support independence.

The Republican Left, the second most voted party in the last regional elections held in catalonia in 2012, will have two of Spain's 54 lawmakers in the European Parliament.

The Convergence and Union party together with the Basque Nationalist Party will have three seats.

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