İrem UZUN -TDO- Separatist parties in Catalonia have boosted their parliamentary majority in the regional elections, held amid a third wave of coronavirus.  The pro-union Socialist Party, led by former health minister Salvador Illa, won the most votes to claim a narrow victory, but will struggle to form a government.

With over 99% of ballots counted, separatists won 50.9% of the vote, surpassing the 50% threshold for the first time. The most likely scenario was for the two main separatist parties to extend their coalition government. The final outcome is unlikely, however, to lead to any repeat of the chaotic, short-lived declaration of independence from Spain that took place in 2017. Tensions have ebbed and most voters were more concerned about the COVID-19 pandemic than independence. Low turnout of 53% amid the pandemic, down from 79% in the previous election in 2017, may have favored separatist parties, whose supporters were more mobilized.

The 54-year-old Illa praised the outcome as a clear victory. "It is time to turn the page, to write a new chapter, to reach out to one another and advance together," Illa said on Sunday. He said the elections had gone “normally” despite the “exceptional” circumstances due to the pandemic. “Catalonia has given a lesson in civics and maturity” said the socialist candidate. “Hope is always stronger than fear,” he ended.

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