Catalan separatists claim victory in regional vote

Separatists in Catalonia claimed victory Sunday in a regional election that they have vowed will lead to them declaring the region independent from Spain.

"We have won," bellowed nationalist regional president Artur Mas before a crowd of supporters yelling and waving flags at an open-air rally in Barcelona.

Official results with 80 percent of the votes counted indicated Mas`s pro-independence alliance will hold an absolute majority in the regional parliament if it teams up with the radical left-wing, pro-independence group CUP.

With 83 percent of the votes counted, Mas`s Together For Yes alliance had 63 seats and the CUP had 10 seats, according to figures published by the regional government.

That gave them a joint total of 73 seats, above the 68 needed for an absolute majority in the 135-seat regional parliament.

Those partial results gave Together For Yes 39.36 percent of the vote, with 8.12 percent for the CUP -- or a combined total of 47.48 percent for the two pro-independence forces.

Together For Yes has vowed to declare independence by 2017 if it secures a majority in the parliament, even without a majority of votes.

After the Spanish government blocked him from holding a straight referendum on secession, Mas framed Sunday`s vote for the regional parliament as an indirect vote on independence, heightening tensions with Madrid.

Spain`s national government brands secession illegal and wants the country to stay united as the eurozone`s fourth-biggest economy recovers from recession. 

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