Catalans began voting for a new administration in an election many hope will resolve Spain’s worst crisis in decades after the region declared independence leading Madrid to sack local leaders.
Polls suggest neither the pro-independence nor the pro-unity camp will win a majority. The likely outcome is a hung parliament and many weeks of wrangling to form a new regional government.
The uncertainty generated by the independence drive has hurt hotel occupancy rates in the region, dented consumer sales and caused more than 3,000 businesses to move their registered headquarters from Catalonia.
It has also bitterly divided Catalan society between those who support independence and those who favour unity with Spain.