Story highlightsPro-independence parties won 70 seats in the election, enough to form a coalition governmentCenter-right Ciudadanos (Citizens) became the largest party in parliament with 37 seats
(CNN)Catalonia’s political crisis is unresolved after fresh elections called by the Spanish government.
After a record turnout of over 80%, the region’s voters again favored the pro-independence parties by a slim margin over those opposing independence for Spain’s richest region. The goal of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to lance the boil of the Catalan separatist movement through this vote backfired.The Catalan government was removed by the Madrid government in October after the local parliament declared unilateral independence for the region.Separatist parties in Spain's Catalonia win majority in electionBut the pro-independence parties will be heartened by the resilience of their vote in this election, even as several of their leaders remain in prison and others are in self-imposed exile outside the country.Read MoreThe result suggests further uncertainty in a region that accounts for a fifth of Spain’s economy, and weeks of haggling over the formation of a regional government, with seven parties represented in the parliament. The pro-independence parties are not exactly a coherent bloc.The pro-independence parties took 70 of the 135 seats in the regional parliament, retaining their overall majority. They won 72 seats in 2015. But again they won a fraction less than half of the votes cast (nearly 48%), slightly less than they did in 2015.Never strong in Catalonia, the Popular Party (PP) of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy was reduced to three seats from 11 at the last elections. For Rajoy and his party, the result was a bitter disappointment. Party spokesman Rafael Hernando said only that the government and Senate in Madrid remained the most solid guarantee against the forces of independence. Center-right party Ciudadanos (Citizens) candidate Ines Arrimadas (R) celebrates the poll results in the Catalan regional election, December 21, 2017.The party with the most to celebrate was the center-right Ciudadanos (Citizens), which became the largest in the Catalan parliament, with 37 seats. It opposes Catalan secession from Spain, but has taken a more conciliatory line than the PP.Turnout was 82%, much higher than the 75% in the last elections in 2015. By contrast with the sometimes violent and chaotic referendum at the beginning of October, Thursday’s vote was orderly — with long lines forming at polling stations. Voters stand in a queue outside a polling station on December 21, 2017 in Barcelona Spain. Rajoy’s attempt to resolve the crisis through new elections has only cemented the status quo. But the pro-independence parties will probably think twice before trying an encore in declaring Catalonia’s separation from Spain, given the sequence of events that was triggered in October. The upheaval began with the Catalan government organizing a referendum on the region’s future on October 1, despite it being declared illegal by Spain’s Constitutional Court. The vote was marred by violence, with the Civil Guard sent in by Madrid to try to prevent voting. Despite a boycott by most pro-union voters, the separatist parties used the result to push the declaration of independence through parliament. That led Madrid to dissolve the Catalan government, arrest leading pro-independence politicians and call fresh elections. Photos: Catalonia declares independence from Spain as political crisis deepensPeople wave “estelada,” or pro-independence flags, outside the Palau de la Generalitat in Barcelona, Spain, on Friday, October 27, after Catalonia’s regional Parliament passed a motion it says establishes an independent Catalan Republic. Hide Caption 1 of 9 Photos: Catalonia declares independence from Spain as political crisis deepensCatalan President Carles Puigdemont casts his vote for independence from Spain at the Generalitat de Catalunya on October 27, 2017, in Barcelona, Spain. Members of the Catalan Parliament voted for independence following a two-day session on how to respond the Spanish government’s enacting of Article 155, which would curtail Catalan autonomy. Hide Caption 2 of 9 Photos: Catalonia declares independence from Spain as political crisis deepensOpposition Catalan lawmakers place Spanish national flags and Catalan esteladas over the benches ahead of a vote on independence inside the Catalan Parliament in Barcelona, Spain. Hide Caption 3 of 9 Photos: Catalonia declares independence from Spain as political crisis deepensA deputy of Catalonian Parliament, who is oppose to independence of Catalonia holds a “No” ballot during the independence voting at Catalonian Parliament in Barcelona, Spain.Hide Caption 4 of 9 Photos: Catalonia declares independence from Spain as political crisis deepensSpanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy attends a session of the Spanish Senate in Madrid. Rajoy asked the Senate for the go-ahead to depose Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and his executive in a bid to stop their independence drive. Hide Caption 5 of 9 Photos: Catalonia declares independence from Spain as political crisis deepensMaria Salut, 50, center, celebrates the unilateral declaration of independence of Catalonia outside the Catalan Parliament, in Barcelona, Spain.Hide Caption 6 of 9 Photos: Catalonia declares independence from Spain as political crisis deepensA book of the Spanish Constitution is placed on the benches of opposition Catalan lawmakers who left the chamber to boycott a vote on independence inside the Catalan parliament. Catalonia’s regional government passed a motion saying they are establishing an independent Catalan Republic.Hide Caption 7 of 9 Photos: Catalonia declares independence from Spain as political crisis deepensProtesters holds banners that read ”freedom” in Catalan and include portraits of Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart, the imprisoned leaders of two Catalan grassroots organizations, during a rally outside the Catalan Parliament in Barcelona.Hide Caption 8 of 9 Photos: Catalonia declares independence from Spain as political crisis deepensA protester appears to pray as she takes part in a rally outside the Catalan Parliament.Hide Caption 9 of 9The pro-union parties campaigned on a return to calm and stability — with the restoration of self-government for Catalonia within Spain. The pro-independence parties pointed to the violence in October and subsequent arrests as the behavior of an oppressive state. As the results came in, Agusti Alcoberro of the pro-independence Catalan National Assembly called for the immediate release of its leader Jordi Sanchez and others he described as “political prisoners.”The turmoil has had a chilling effect on Catalonia’s economy. Foreign investment fell by 75% in the third quarter of this year compared to a year ago. Two of Spain’s largest banks — Caixa and Sabadell –– decided to move their headquarters out of Catalonia — as did some 3,000 other companies. JUST WATCHEDHow Catalonia’s independence crisis unfoldedReplayMore Videos …MUST WATCH
How Catalonia’s independence crisis unfolded 02:24The former President of Catalonia, Carlos Puidgemont, who led the drive for independence, fled Spain soon after being charged with sedition. He watched Thursday’s results from Brussels, where he said it was “not a normal day with candidates in prison and in exile.” But his party did surprisingly well, netting 34 seats. Puidgemont has called for a return to normality. That’s exactly the word that Prime Minister Rajoy has used. Their definitions of what is normal remain poles apart. But after this election, Puidgemont will undoubtedly be the happier of the two.