Catalans flocked to the polls on Thursday for an election that could strip pro-independence parties of absolute control of the region’s parliament, though prospects of it ending the country’s worst political crisis in decades appear slim. Final surveys published last Friday showed separatists and unionists running neck-and-neck, though the same data suggests the pro-independence camp may still be able to form a minority government. That would keep national politics mired in turmoil and raise concerns in European capitals and financial markets. However, the secessionist campaign has lost some momentum since it unilaterally declared independence in October to trigger Thursday’s vote, and one of its leaders took a conciliatory tone towards Madrid in comments published this week.
Long queues formed outside voting stations in the affluent region of northeastern Spain shortly after they opened at 0800 GMT. They will stay open until 1900 GMT in an election expected to draw a record turnout.
Among those queuing in L‘Hospitalet de Llobregat, a working class suburb south of Barcelona, was Miguel Rodriguez, a 53 year old doctor, who in October voted for independence in a referendum that Madrid declared unconstitutional.
“I‘m not very optimistic that these elections will return a stable government,” he said, upset that the Spanish government had fired the previous regional government. “We’ve had all our rights taken away.”