REPUBLICANS in Catalonia have said they will open up a new chapter under their leadership to make amnesty possible for political prisoners – including their leader Oriol Junqueras – and self-determination achievable.

Pere Aragones, the presidential candidate for the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), yesterday called for a new independence referendum after the pro-independence bloc in the Catalan Parliament reached more than 50% of the vote for the first time.

He said: “The Catalan people have spoken. The time has come to negotiate a referendum.”

The Socialist party under former Spanish health minister Salvador Illa won the most votes but tied with ERC on 33 seats. Illa claimed victory and a desire to be the next president, but ERC has backing from other indy formations – Together for Catalonia (JxCat), with 32 seats, Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP) with nine, and In Common We Can (ECP) which has eight seats.

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The conservatives in the shape of Citizens (Cs) and the People’s Party (PP) managed just six and three seats respectively.

However, the biggest shock of election night was the emergence of the far-right Vox which will have a presence in the Catalan Parliament for the first time after securing 11 seats.

Support from the CUP proved useful in the last government which JxCat and ERC ran in coalition, and Aragones is likely to seek a similar arrangement this time, potentially on a more formal basis.

He told broadcaster RAC1 he wanted to form a broad government with the four pro-indy parties.

“There is a majority of 82 deputies [MPs] in favour of self-determination, amnesty and the freedom of political prisoners,” he said.

“People want a reconstruction based on equity because the social axis in independence has been won by the left.

“When Catalonia is led by the Republican Left, this country moves forward. That is why, from now on, I will work to reconcile all the pro-independence forces and all the sovereigntist forces, committed to the right to self-determination, to amnesty, committed to the freedom of prisoners and the return of the exiles, committed to the amnesty, to get their support for my investiture as president of the Generalitat [Government] de Catalunya.

“The result is unappealable; in the new Parliament there is a clear majority of pro-independence MPs.”

Former president – now MEP – Carles Puigdemont, who leads JxCat from exile, was happy with the result, despite his party losing out to ERC: “Pro-independence has won the elections. We have defeated the pro-Spanish forces.”

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Laura Borras, JxCat’s candidate for the presidency, told TV3: “We are there to fulfil the mandate of the polls and this is, of course, independence … ERC has one more seat than us … We have no problem making Aragones president.”

Junqueras, the ERC president, was delighted that his party would hold the presidency after a gap of 80 years.

He said: “We put an end to the very long period in which we were expelled from the institutions. It is a very clear message for Catalan society as a whole: Catalonia is once again showing that it wants self-determination and amnesty.”

Junqueras is serving a 13-year sentence after being convicted of sedition after the 2017 indyref, but he and eight other political prisoners have been given temporary freedom as part of a more relaxed regime as third degree – low-risk – inmates.

That allowed him to take part in election rallies and other ERC events, but yesterday Spain’s public prosecutor moved to suspend the privileges of daytime and weekend leaves for them all. Their status was granted last year and withdrawn, only to be granted again two weeks ago, coinciding with the start of the Catalan election campaign.

The ERC said the elections had shown despite the Spanish authorities’ intervention, the Catalan people were not willing to give up their aspirations of national freedom: “The historical support for Catalonia’s pro-independence forces reflects the legacy of the October 2017 referendum and reinforces its mandate’s legitimacy. It will be the future government’s duty to comply with the people’s claim and make independence a reality,” it said.