December 21, 2017 / 12:15 PM / a year ago

Turnout in Catalonia regional election 34.51 pct at 1200 GMT

MADRID, Dec 21 (Reuters) - More than a third of Catalans turned up at polling stations in the first four hours of Thursday’s high-stakes regional elections in a vote that will be key to deciding the future of Spain’s wealthiest region’s independence movement.

Turnout of 34.5 percent was registered at 1200 GMT compared to a midday figure of 35.1 percent at the previous election in 2015, the regional government said.

Opinion polls before the vote showed separatists and unionists running neck-and-neck.

More than 5.3 million Catalans are entitled to vote, with the final turnout when polling stations close at 1900 GMT expected to be record-high.

An exit poll from regional newspaper La Vanguardia is expected at about the same time, with the first preliminary results around two hours later and final results after midnight. (Reporting by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Paul Day)

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