By Joseph Wilson, associated Press
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) – The strength of the separatist movement in Spain’s northeastern Catalonia is being tested on Sunday as 5.3 million voters cast their vote in a regional election held under tight restrictions to reduce the spread of coronovirus Is called.
As of last month, Salvador Illa, in charge of Spain’s coronovirus response as its health minister, will lead the ticket for the Socialist Party of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez. Ila is expected to end the hold of pro-independence MPs in the regional parliament for the past decade.
Polls, however, predict a tight race between the Socialists and the two major pro-secular parties, the left-wing Republic of Catalonia and the center-right together for Catalonia.
The separatists aim not only to retain their majority of the Catalan parliament based in Barcelona, but also to break the 50% blockage of the popular vote for the first time.
The wealthy region, along with Spanish as well as its language, has been the source of Spain’s biggest political crisis in decades as separatism leaders failed in a 2017 privacy bid in defiance of court warnings that it was unconstitutional. Many of those leaders were jailed, while others fled to European countries.
With Spain still suffering a post-Christmas spike in coronovirus infection, the vote is being held under strict health regulations. Voters should wear face masks, use hand disinfectants given at polling stations, and stay at least 1.5 meters away while in the queue.
People particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 are encouraged to vote between 9 am and noon. The general population is supposed to vote until 7pm, leaving the last hour until voting stops at 8pm for voters who are infected or quarantined due to recent contact with an infected person. .
According to officials, more than 20,000 people voted without a hitch from the vast majority of the polling stations despite requesting them to be relieved of the duty to do the polling work. Nevertheless, citizens tapped for Election Day duty expressed their concern for the health condition.
“You don’t feel safe. You are exposed (for contagion), ”said 35-year-old Miriam Martinez, working at a polling station set up in a fresh production market in Barcelona. “You’re inside a place for several hours, which although windy, is still closed and you are in contact with a lot of people. (…) But this is what we have to do.”
Preliminary results are expected to be announced by government officials at around 10:00, but a record number of mail-in votes may mean that full results will take longer than usual.
And a possible future regional government would be likely to strike a deal between the parties that could take days or longer to conclude.
Renata Britto contributed to this report.
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