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Madrid — Despite taking fire for losing a snap election in Catalonia, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy faced the new year better equipped to block a separatist drive in the wealthy region, analysts said. His detractors have called the results of the December 21 election, which saw separatist parties hold on to their majority in the Catalan parliament, a "fiasco" and a "rout" for Rajoy, in power since 2011. Pro-independence parties failed to win a majority of ballots cast but neither did parties in favour of Spanish unity do as well as was hoped for by the majority of Spain’s political class. Rajoy’s conservative Popular Party (PP) saw its marginal representation in the 135-seat Catalan parliament reduced even further, to just four seats, from 11 previously. Its main rival, the relative newcomer Ciudadanos, won the most seats with 36, mainly by luring away traditional PP supporters. At first glance Rajoy appeared to have lost his bet by calling the snap polls after he invoked con...

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