Pro-Catalonia independence parties will combine for the most votes in regional election in December though may fall just short of a majority needed to revive the secession campaign, two polls showed on Sunday.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy called the Dec. 21 election after firing the previous government and imposing direct rule over the autonomous region following a unilateral declaration of independence by Catalan lawmakers on Oct. 27.
Catalonia's statehood push has tipped Spain into its worst political crisis since its return to democracy four decades ago as surging pro-secession sentiment in the region has in turn kindled nationalism across the country.
According to the GAD3 survey of 1,233 people conducted between Oct. 30 and Nov. 3 and published in La Vanguardia newspaper, pro-independence parties ERC, PDECat and CUP would take between 66 and 69 seats in the 135-seat parliament.
A second poll taken over the same period for the conservative newspaper La Razon echoed the GAD3 survey, showing pro-independence parties would capture the most votes though still fall just shy of a parliamentary majority with 65 seats.
Voter participation would rise to a record of 83 percent, the GAD3 poll showed.
Politicians on remand
Sacked regional leader Carles Puigdemont travelled to Belgium shortly after Madrid took control and now faces an arrest warrant for rebellion, sedition, misuse of public funds, disobedience and breach of trust relating to the secessionist campaign.
Brussels prosecutors planned a news conference at 1300 GMT on Puigdemont, a spokesman for the Belgian authority said on Sunday.
On Saturday, Puigdemont called for a united Catalan political front in the face of the elections and has said he might run as a candidate from Brussels.
On Thursday, nine members of his sacked cabinet were ordered by Spain's High Court to be held on remand pending an investigation and potential trial.
One member of the dismissed Cabinet, Santi Vila, was freed after paying bail of 50,000 euros ($58,035) on Friday. The other eight could remain in custody for up to four years.
According to the GAP3 survey, 59 percent believed legal action against Puigdemont was unjustified while 69.3 percent said that the jailing of the Catalan politicians would give the independence cause a boost at the ballot box.
Catalan civic groups Asamblea Nacional Catalana and Omnium Cultural — whose leaders were imprisoned last month on sedition charges — called for a general strike on Nov. 8 and a mass demonstration on Nov. 11 to protest the detentions.
A rally in Barcelona on Sunday, however, attracted just a few hundred people, a long way from the hundreds of thousands to join pro-independence marches in October, many waving the regional flag and carrying protest signs.
One protester, Antonia Aguilera, 63, said she was concerned the elections wouldn't be fair and would be manipulated by the Spanish government.
Her concerns echo a deep mistrust many Catalans have of politicians in Madrid that has deepened since the arrests and after the national police used truncheons and rubber bullets to thwart voting in the illegal independence referendum on Oct. 1.
"I'm disgusted by it all. We knew they would react but not as strongly as they did," she said, adding that she believed the pro-independence parties would win the December election.
"And then we'll be back where we started."