World

Catalans vote in election that could determine their northern region's future as part of Spain

  • In this Monday, Sept. 21, 2015 photo, the leader of Spain's far left "Podemos" (We Can) Pablo Iglesias, speaks during a political meeting of "Catalunya Sí que es Pot" party in Barcelona, Spain. Catalan secessionists pushed for years for an independence referendum that Spain's central government refused to allow. Now secessionists hope that Sunday's regional parliament elections will put Catalonia on the road toward breaking away. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

    In this Monday, Sept. 21, 2015 photo, the leader of Spain's far left "Podemos" (We Can) Pablo Iglesias, speaks during a political meeting of "Catalunya Sí que es Pot" party in Barcelona, Spain. Catalan secessionists pushed for years for an independence referendum that Spain's central government refused to allow. Now secessionists hope that Sunday's regional parliament elections will put Catalonia on the road toward breaking away. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this Friday, Sept. 11, 2015 photo, the President of Democratic Convergence of Catalonia Artur Mas pauses during a press conference in Barcelona, Spain. Catalan secessionists pushed for years for an independence referendum that Spain's central government refused to allow. Now secessionists hope that Sunday's regional parliament elections will put Catalonia on the road toward breaking away. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

    In this Friday, Sept. 11, 2015 photo, the President of Democratic Convergence of Catalonia Artur Mas pauses during a press conference in Barcelona, Spain. Catalan secessionists pushed for years for an independence referendum that Spain's central government refused to allow. Now secessionists hope that Sunday's regional parliament elections will put Catalonia on the road toward breaking away. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)  (The Associated Press)

  • A nun prepares to vote at a polling station in Barcelona, Spain, Sunday Sept. 27, 2015. Voters in Catalonia go to the polls on Sunday to elect regional lawmakers, with pro-secession parties saying they will push for independence within 18 months if they win a majority in the 165-seat parliament, as most opinion polls predict they will. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

    A nun prepares to vote at a polling station in Barcelona, Spain, Sunday Sept. 27, 2015. Voters in Catalonia go to the polls on Sunday to elect regional lawmakers, with pro-secession parties saying they will push for independence within 18 months if they win a majority in the 165-seat parliament, as most opinion polls predict they will. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)  (The Associated Press)

Voters in Catalonia are participating in an election that could propel the northeastern region toward independence from the rest of Spain or quell secessionism for years.

Secessionists have long pushed for an independence referendum, but Spain's central government has not allowed one, arguing it would be unconstitutional because only it can call such a vote.

Sunday's election is for Catalonia's 135-member Parliament, located in the region's capital Barcelona. Secessionists argue if they win 68 seats, the result would give them a democratic mandate to initiate a split from Spain that could include a unilateral declaration of independence.

The central government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy says it will use all legal means to prevent Catalonia from breaking away, an exit European leaders warn would include ejection from the European Union.