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Paul Bocuse, nicknamed the "Pope" of French cuisine, has died at the age of 91 at his restaurant near Lyon.

Europe

Madrid's plan to regain power backfires, as Catalonia secessionists win elections

media Supporters of Catalan independence on the streets of Barcelona on 21 December 2017 Reuters/Albert Gea

Catalan pro-independence parties won an absolute majority in snap elections Thursday, with a record 81 percent turnout. The election handed a mandate back to the region's ousted separatist leaders, two of whom campaigned from exile and behind bars. But the pro-Spain centrist Ciudadanos party also claimed victory, as it became the single biggest political group with 36 seats – at the cost of its allies, the People’s Party of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and the Catalan Socialist Party.

Supporters of Ines Arrimadas, leader of the Ciudadanos, proclaimed allegiance to Spain at a post-election rally celebrating their victory.

But the Ciudadanos victory is not enough. Their allies, Rajoy's "PP" failed miserably. The Partido Popular was divided and won only three seats. Another ally, the Socialist Party of Catalonia came in with 17 seats. So the overall majority went to the independence block.

When the results came in, supporters of the pro-independence Republican Left party chanted "Liberty" for their jailed party leader Oriol Junqueras, who is detained in Madrid on sedition charges.

Eugenia, a member of the Republican Left says "I am very happy, because this is the beginning of the Republic of Catalonia".

"It begins this day. It is a very beautiful day in my life."

The Republican Left, and its center-right ally "Together for Catalonia" led by Carles Puigdemont who is in self-imposed exile in Brussels, together with the far left "Popular Unity Candidacy", won a massive 70 seats in the Catalan parliament.

"This election was called for by the Spanish government, in order to repress and suppress the rule of Catalans," acording to Martina Anderson, a Member of the European Parliament representing Sinn Fein of Northern Ireland, who were monitoring the elections.

"And it failed miserably on them and backfired big time.

"So let’s see what has been called for this evening: sit down, have a dialogue, everyone on the table and sort it out, as the Catalans are willing to do to take this forward.

The European Union wich is against Catalan independence, earlier stated that Catalonia would find itself outside the European family of nations.

Apart from the Sinn Fein representative, the Catalan elections were followed with much interest by groups representing similar minority regions: there were representatives from the Hungarian minority in Romania; former MEP Ana Maria Miranda Paz, who fights for rights of Galicia, among others.

"I hope that the European Commission is going to change its attitude," says Kristian Kreuman who represents the Freedom for South Tyrol movement in Austria.

"The EU is going to understand that borders can be changed within the European Union, and that it is absolutely not a danger to the EU as a whole, because it just stresses that Europe and the EU is made up by people and not by nation states," he says.

It is now up to Madrid if it wants to continue on its confrontational course, or release the prisoners and try to find common ground with the pro-independence parties that feel invigorated by their victory.

But it will be a hard fight. "The nationalists will never again be able to speak in the name of all Catalonia," said Ines Arrimadas of the Ciudadanos, now Catalonia’s biggest party, in her post-election speech.

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