Pro-separatist parties won the most seats in parliament despite failing to secure 50 percent of the vote in an election on independence that saw the biggest turnout in history.
The largest independence platform Junts pel Si has declared victory
Junts pel Si says it will push ahead with independence
Independence parites have won majority of seats but not vote
CUP could determine if independence parties have absolute majority in parliament
00:00 Here is our summing up at midnight
Separatists in Catalonia won control of their regional parliament Sunday in an election that they vowed would set them on the road to independence from Spain, near-complete official results showed.
With 97 percent of the votes counted, the main pro-independence alliance held 62 seats and the left-wing separatist group CUP had 10, giving them together an absolute majority in the 135-deputy assembly, according to figures published by the regional government.
But although they claimed a victory, it was clear that the independence parties had not won the majority they hoped for, and in fact failed to get 50 per cent of the vote meaning the majority of Catalans had in fact rejected seceding from Spain.
And the cracks were already appearing with CUP suggesting that an alliance wasn't going to be straightforward.
The vote for the separatist coalition Junts pel Sí actually accounted for nine seats less than the two main separatist parties, Artur Mas's CDC and the left-wing ERC, secured in 2012.
It was a good result for Ciutadans, the Catalan branch of Albert Rivera's Ciudadanos party, as they won an impressive 25 seats, up from the nine that they secured in the last election in 2012, making them the second biggest party.
The socialists claimed a success because they won more seats than they were predicted to and Podemos backed coalition 'Catalonia yes we can' suffered a blow, winning just 11 seats, the same number as the Catalan Popular Party.
Catalonia should be proud of itself with a turnout of over 75 percent, the largest ever recorded in the region's history.
Junts pel Sí coalition celebrating after declaring victory. Photo: AFP
23:51 Government sources say Artur Mas has failed in his independence bid
According to a report in La Vanguardia, government sources have said the result shows "that the Catalan president has failed in his breakaway strategy". He has neither the votes nor the seats to show that Catalan society supports his challenge.
23:42 Podemos leader speaks of disappointment:
Pablo Iglesias, leader of Podemos which was part of the Catalonia 'Yes We Can' coalition: “Our result is very disappointing. I don't want Catalonia to leave Spain, but this decision must be made by the Catalan people. I think that only if we (Podemos) govern, we can lay out a Spain in which Catalonia feels comfortable.”
23:30 Now it's the Podemos backed coalition to have their say
The leader of left-wing coalition Catalunya Sí que es Pot (Catalonia yes we can), Lluís Rabell, said: “We would like to sincerely thank all the people who have given us their support. It is clear that with the 11 MPs that we have at the moment that we have not achieved the objective we wanted, but we have to say that this result is the consequence of an especially polarized election that has been difficult to manage for a candidacy based on social issues, like ours.”
For Catalan daily La Vanguardia, an absolute majority for Catalonia's pro-independence parties is already a done deal.
While accepting Junts pel Si haven't achieved that absolute majority, they say the platform “has the support” of the left-wing CUP group for its independence plans, something that remains to be confirmed.
23:23 Ciutadans (the Catalan version of the national party Ciudadanos) has a reason to celebrate winning 25 seats and becoming the biggest anti-independence party in the Catalan parliament. The party was only founded by Albert Rivera in 2006 before going national this year. The centre right party will be very pleased with the result which bodes well for them in the general elections later this year.
23:17 "Catalonia is Spain"
Huge celebrations as Ciutadans Catalonia leader, Ines Arrimadas, takes to the mic next to national party leader Albert Rivera.
The whole crowd erupted in chants of "Catalonia es España".
"The majority of Catalans have today turned their backs on Artur Mas," says Arrimadas calling for Mas's resignation.
23:16 No government reaction as yet...but
While Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has yet to weigh on tonight's results, ABC newspaper is citing government sources as saying the election results are “a total failure” for Artur Mas — not a complete surprise given the serious tensions between Mas and the central government in Madrid.
Those sources described the outcome of Sunday's vote as “a triumph for the diversity of Catalan society” and highlighted the fact tonight was the first time independence forces led by the CiU and the ERC have failed to achieve an absolute majority in the Catalan parliament.
The sources also raised the issue of the lack of votes garnered by Junts pel Si platform, saying Mas's strategy of creating divisions within Catalan society had fallen “a long way short of winning a mandate...to carry on with his secession challenge”.
23:13 The PSOE (socialist party) national leader has spoken:
Pedro Sánchez, president of Spain's Socialist party (PSOE) has said: "These elections have clearly shown that there is a majority that does not want independence. Those fighting for independence have lost today and have left a fractured Catalonia divided into two blocs."
23:10 Not a bad result for the socialists
The El País political correspondent points out that although the result is bad for the PP it was expected while the Catalan socialist party should be happy with their result of 17 seats as it was above what was predicted.
22:15 The majority of voters DON'T want independence
With almost three quarters of the votes counted, the percentage of those who did not vote for independence parties adds up to 52.64 percent. But the separatist parties will still win the most seats and therefore will push ahead on the path to breakaway from Spain. Is that democracy?
Another party that will be celebrating tonight will be Ciutadans, the Catalan arm of Ciudadanos -Citizens (C's), an anti-independence party that was founded in 2006 and only launched nationally in 2015.
Great result for @CiutadansCs@CiudadanosCs who look set to win 24 seats. 5 more than predicted and a huge leap on the 9 seats in 2012
If the exit polls are right and the Junts pel Si wins the most votes but just short of the absolute majority it is not going to be plain sailing. An alliance with radical CUP is on the cards but the fact that the far left party led by Antonio Baños refused to join up under the independence umbrella doesn't bode well for a smooth partnership.
CUP candidate Antonio Baños. Photo: AFP
21:21 Catalonia...following in the footsteps of Kosovo
Digital newspaper El Español provides an interesting history lesson in independence movements. There have been some 50 referendums on independence since the Second World War but only once has a state unilaterally declared independence after a "plebiscitary election" and that was Kosovo in 2008. Interestingly, Spain has never officially recognized Kosovo as an independent state.
21:15 Together for yes celebrating
Francesc Homs, a spokesman for the Catalan regional government has tweeted: "A historic participation and seems like a majority for independence. We've done it!"
Francesc Homs: "Tenim una participació històrica i sembla que també tenim majoria independentista. Ho hem fet!" pic.twitter.com/zTqIVeXZRd
20:24 Euphoric reaction at Junts pel Sí headquarters as exit poll results announced
The first exit poll shows a victory for the separatist coalition Junts pel Si, but not quite enough to clinch the 68 seats needed for an overall majority. They will be looking to the Candidatura d'Unitat Popular (CUP), also pro-independence, to help them get that much-needed majority.
Here's the breakdown of seats from the first FORTA exit poll:
Pro-independence Coalition Junts Pel Si (Together for yes): 63 – 66 seats
Ciutadans: 19 – 21 seats
Catalonia Socialist Party (PSC): 14 – 16 seats
Left-wing coalition Catalunya Sí que es Pot (Catalonia yes we can): 12 – 14 seats
Left-wing, pro independence CUP : 9 – 11 seats
Catalan Popular Party (PPC): 9 – 11 seats
UCD: 0 – 3 seats
20:09 The first exit polls show that it's a victory for the separatists.
20:00 Polls close in Catalonia.
Here are some figures about voting numbers: 5,510,798 people are entitled to vote in Catalonia, 4,124,321 of which will do so in Barcelona region, 800,962 in Tarragona, 756,156 in Girona and 438,000 in Lleida. A total of 2,681 polling stations have been set up around Catalonia for the 27-S elections,
Roundup of today's news
At 6pm the turnout was 63.2 percent, seven points up on 2012.
Current president of the Genralitat, Catalonia's regional government, Artur Mas. Mas' CDC party is part of a four-party coalition, Junts pel Sí. If the coalitin gains a majority it will take it as a mandate to declare independence within 18 months.
The presidential candidate of Ciutadans, Inés Arrimadas and the head of the national branch of the party, Ciudadanos, Albert Rivera. Ciutadans are anti-independence and class themselves as the "only anti-independence alternative" to the main parties.
The candidate for the Popular Party of Catalunya (PPC), Xavier García Albiol. The Catalan branch of Spain's conservative Popular Party (currently in power), is strongly opposed to Catalan independence.
Xavier García Albiol Cesar Manso/AFP
The Socialist Party of Catalonia (PSC) candidate, Miquel Iceta. The Socialists are also opposed to independence.
Photo: Jorge Guerrero/AFP
Lluis Rabell, presidential candidate for the left-wing coalition Catalunya Sí que es Pot (Catalonia yes we can). The coalition, which includes Podemos, the party that grew out of the indignados protest movement, opposes independence, preferring to focus on social issues.