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Catalonia's pro-independence parties declare victory in elections

donfiore/iStock/Thinkstock(BARCELONA) -- Catalonia's independence movement is projected to win Thursday's highly anticipated elections with a narrow majority.

Carles Puigdemont, the former president of Catalonia, who fled to Belgium from Spain, where he is wanted on sedition and rebellion charges, claimed the victory and asked Madrid to listen to the results of the elections.

"I want to congratulate the Catalan people because they have sent a message to the world," he said. "The Catalan republic has beaten the monarchy and Article 155. [Prime Minister Mariano] Rajoy and his allies have lost.... If he keeps applying to the same formula he will keep failing.

Puigdemont added of Rajoy: "He needs to change. We have to find solutions."

These preliminary results are preparing Barcelona to take its next steps: looking for a coalition for the Parliament, and, most likely, new confrontations with Spain's government.

Said Marc Gafarot, political analyst for the Barcelona Centre for International Affairs, "Pro-independence parties are resisting Spain's unionist wave and are maintaining alive the process of independence. These anticipated elections did not solve anything."

Nevertheless, the unionist Citizens are now the biggest party at the Parliament, with 36 seats in the 135-seat chamber, but that is still not enough to form a coalition with other parties and achieve a majority.

Speaking from the Hotel Catalonia this evening, Ines Arrimadas, the leader of the Citizens, told her supporters that "the pro-independence parties can no longer speak on behalf of everyone."

The separatist parties altogether won 70 seats. It is now uncertain to determine who will form the new government.

The results are a significant failure for Rajoy, as he called for the elections after separatists declared Catalonia's independence in October. Rajoy hoped that Catalonia's people would punish the separatists after a very long political crisis.

Though Puigdemont and former Vice President of Catalonia Oriol Junqueras, the leaders of the separatists, were forced to campaign from outside Catalonia -- one from jail and the other from Brussels -- they were undeterred.

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