Madrid_ With several of its candidates imprisoned or abroad, Catalonia will celebrate anomalous regional elections today, forced by the government of Mariano Rajoy to contain the secessionist pretensions of the rich Spanish autonomous community, Prensa Latina reports. 

More than 5.5 million voters are called to vote this Thursday in exceptional elections, called by the central administration under Article 155 of the Constitution, never before used in four decades of democracy.

Under the controversial precept, Rajoy intervened the region, ceased the president of the Generalitat (Catalan self-government), Carles Puigdemont, and his entire cabinet, and dissolved the parliament, which on October 27 had proclaimed the creation of a sovereign republic.

The appointment with the ballot boxes will put to the test the true secessionist longings of their old authorities, dismissed precisely after consummating that unilateral declaration of independence despite its prohibition by the justice of the European country.

These elections are seen as a kind of plebiscite between those who favor the split of the prosperous territory of 7.5 million inhabitants and those who bet on their permanence in Spain, options for which the polls do not offer clear majorities.

In addition, they occur in exceptional circumstances, with four imprisoned secessionist leaders, including former vice president Oriol Junqueras, and the former Catalan leader in Belgium, where he went after his removal by Rajoy.

Junqueras heads the list of Esquerra Republicana de Cataluña (left) and Puigdemont the Catalan Democratic Party (Conservative), which is awarded the Juntos por Cataluña brand.

All the ex-advisors (regional ministers) of the deposed executive of Puigdemont are investigated for rebellion, sedition and embezzlement in relation to the process that culminated with the proclamation of the Catalan Republic.

The judicial persecution of the dismissed politicians, especially against two of the most important postulants (Junqueras and Puigdemont) turned the joust into one of the most unusual in the history of Spain.

The separatist parties will try to revalidate the hegemony that they achieved in the Catalan chamber after the regional elections of September 2015.

The so-called constitutionalist bloc, composed of the Socialist Party, the liberals of Citizens and the right-wing Popular Party of Rajoy, hopes to take advantage of the situation to recover the government controlled by the independence movement since 2010.

The polls indicate that neither supporters nor opponents of the secession will achieve an absolute majority, which would require cross-sectorial agreements hitherto unlikely or a repetition of the elections in June 2018.

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