World Bulletin / News Desk
Catalans head to the polls on Thursday in bitterly contested elections that will determine the future of the independence crisis.
This vote is legal, unlike the Oct. 1 independence referendum deemed illegal by the Spanish law and met with police violence.
Thursday's elections will gauge public reaction after a declaration of independence by the Catalan parliament.
Since the October referendum, Spain has taken over direct control of Catalonia and called the elections.
The crisis has forced thousands of companies to leave the region and several members of the previous government have either fled the country or have been sent to a Spanish prison.
The latest polls show a tight race -- predicting that the separatists will lose their majority -- resulting in a hung parliament.
The polls opened at 9:00 AM local time (0800GMT) and long queues formed outside electoral colleges. The voter turnout is expected to break previous records.
Carles Puigdemont, Catalonia's former president and a candidate in the elections, was unable to cast his vote in person as he is living in exile in Belgium and missed the cut off date to register to vote abroad.
Despite the consequences of their previous independence attempts, separatists maintain that this vote is an important step in the formation of an independent Catalonia.
“Today is a very important say, not for today’s Catalonia but for the Catalonia of the future… it is time for the Republic of citizens to retire the monarchy of 155,” tweeted Puigdemont on Thursday, referring to article 155 of the constitution, which Spain used to establish direct rule in the region.
However, unionist candidates and the Spanish central government have high hopes that this vote will put the independence process to rest.
“I encourage everyone to go out and vote. We have a project to unite all Catalans… the future of our children depends on this historic vote,” Ines Arrimadas, leader of the main unionist party Ciutadans, told journalists after casting his vote.Güncelleme Tarihi: 22 Aralık 2017, 01:14