BARCELONA • Catalan separatists danced as loudspeakers blasted "Invincible! Invincible!" after pro-independence groups won a regional election framed as a referendum on independence from Spain.
The Together For Yes group has vowed to go ahead with a "road map" to set up an independent Catalan state within 18 months, despite fierce opposition from Madrid, a pledge it made before the election that it said it would implement if it won.
The crowd chanted "President! President!" when Catalonia's nationalist regional president Artur Mas, who called the early election, took the stage on Sunday. "We have won. This is a victory of yes and a victory for democracy," he bellowed.
A radical left-wing separatist party that could join the winning coalition has quickly called for a campaign of disobedience against "unjust laws" after the polls.
"Catalan sovereignty is clear," said Mr Antonio Banos, leader of the CUP party. "From tomorrow, the law can and should be disobeyed by Catalans," he said.
CUP won 10 of the 135 seats in Catalonia's regional assembly, but may ally with Together For Yes, which won 62. However, striking an alliance may be difficult because CUP does not want Mr Mas to lead the separatists.
"I can't believe it, my heart is racing!" said Ms Claudia Cardona, a translation student, after a giant TV screen set up in central Barcelona announced the win.
Ms Cardona, who wore a T-shirt bearing an "estelada" - a Catalan separatist flag with a white star against red and yellow stripes - had just turned 18 and voted for the first time in her life."With this result we can start a process of negotiation that leads to Catalonia becoming its own state," she said.
Mr Arnau Font, an 18-year-old advertising student, said: "I want us to separate from Spain because as long as I can remember, all we get are attacks, threats, like these latest ones over our exit from the euro."
He was surrounded by a sea of Catalan separatist flags, while the flags of other separatist regions like Canada's Quebec, France's Brittany and Spain's Basque country could also be seen.
Spanish officials had warned in the lead-up to Sunday's vote that Catalans would be stripped of their nationality and could plunge into financial chaos like Greece if they broke away.
In response, Ms Loli Dominguez, a 52-year-old housewife, said: "Independence will be done by the people of Catalonia, it doesn't matter if Madrid recognises it or not."