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Puigdemont declares victory for 'Catalan Republic'

Former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont declares victory over Spanish government as separatists win majority.

Former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont

Former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont has declared victory for the "Catalan Republic" over the Spanish government in Catalonia's snap election, with secessionist parties having held onto their majority in the region's parliament.

Catalonia's parliament has 135 seats, requiring 68 seats for a majority. Secessionist parties won 70 seats in Thursday's election, meaning they will hold a majority, according to the latest count of votes.

Puigdemont, speaking in the early hours of Friday morning from self-imposed exile in Brussels, said the result was indisputable.

"Now, it is necessary to rectify, repair and restore. The recipe that Rajoy sold in Europe has failed. Let them take note," he said on Twitter.

Puigdemont has said he is willing to hold talks with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy following the vote, though ruled out an immediate return to Spain.

"I'm open to meet [Rajoy] in Brussels or in a different country within the EU that would not be Spain," he said, in a televised speech in Brussels on Friday.

A return to Spain would be contingent on Madrid allowing him to become the head of a new Catalan government, he said.

Rajoy dismissed Puigdemont as Catalan president two months ago after he declared Catalan independence from Spain following a referendum on October 1, which Madrid considered illegal.

Puigdemont's Together for Catalonia (JxCat) party won 34 seats, the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) came third with 32 and the far-left, anti-capitalist Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP) picked up four - a combined total for separatist parties of 70.

The anti-independence Citizens party won the highest number of seats, 37, becoming the biggest party in the new assembly.

Exit polls showed a five percent increase in voter participation over the 2015 election that originally put pro-independence parties in power.

Rajoy, who called the snap election in October in an attempt to end the political crisis in the wake of Catalonia's referendum, is unlikely to be pleased with the results.

His ruling Popular Party (PP) won three seats, down from 11 held in the previous parliament.

The Spanish leader issued a warning before the vote, saying the new government must comply with the law "or it knows what will happen".

This was an apparent reference to Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, also known as the "nuclear option.

Rajoy used the measure to dismiss the regional government after Catalonia declared independence following the referendum.

That vote saw 90 percent of Catalans choose independence, although turnout was lower than 50 percent. Spanish police cracked down on the vote, using what rights groups called excessive force.

Catalonia, in northeastern Spain, is one of the country's wealthiest regions. It is home to 7.5 million people, accounting for 15 percent of Spain's population and 20 percent of its economic output.


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