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Catalans cast votes in possible Spain secession

By Amy R. Connolly
Mariano Rajoy Brey, President of the Government of the Kingdom of Spain (Prime Minister) meets with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C. on January 2014. Brey is urging voters in Spain to end the call for Catalonian independence. UPI/Ron Sachs/Pool | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/679e04cc1b17af9efa3e7c9178c8b920/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Mariano Rajoy Brey, President of the Government of the Kingdom of Spain (Prime Minister) meets with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C. on January 2014. Brey is urging voters in Spain to end the call for Catalonian independence. UPI/Ron Sachs/Pool | License Photo

BARCELONA, Spain, Sept. 27 (UPI) -- Catalonian residents lined up at the polls Sunday in an election that may determine if the region will break from Spain and create a new European state.

Officially the vote is to decide on a new regional parliament, but is being considered a quasi-referendum on whether the wealthy region should declare its independence from Spain. The pro-independence candidates known as Together for Yes said if a majority 135 seats are won, they will take the necessary steps to make Catalonia a new European nation within 18 months. Voting will continue until 8 p.m. local time.

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With 5.5 million eligible votes, turnout will be key. By midday, some 35 percent of eligible voters had already cast ballots, a rise of five percent in the same period in the 2012 elections. Anti-independence groups are hoping a silent majority will come forward. There is concern an independent Catalonia would be cut from the European Union and the eurozone currency bloc.

"You need to vote to put an end to this mess," Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said, urging voters to stop the call for independence. "They want you to stay at home, like this has nothing to do with you, but it has a lot to do with you. If you stay quiet, they'll win."

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Catalan President Artur Mas said the vote itself is a victory for the region "Today there will be a plebiscite on the future of Catalonia," he said as he cast his vote. "We overcome all the obstacles that the Spanish state put up ... Democracy has won in Catalonia, Spain, Europe and the world."

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