Catalans head to the polls after months of turmoil following independence bid

No Catalan nativity scene is complete without the rather incongruous addition of the caganer - a little figure going to the toilet just behind the baby Jesus.

To Catalans, this little man going about his business is deemed to bring good luck and prove that however significant the situation there are some parts of life that go on as normal.

In recent years the traditional caganer, a red capped peasant, has evolved and the Christmas markets are full of figurines depicting politicians as caganers.

It's seen as a way to bring them down to size. But bringing politicians down to size has taken a rather darker turn this year and after months of turmoil Catalans are heading to the polls.

It's an election called by the Spanish Government after the previous administration declared independence leading to its ousting from power, the dissolution of the Catalan parliament and imposition of direct rule from Madrid.

As elections go these are unorthodox and unprecedented in Western Europe.

The Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy is branding them a way to bring normality back but there's not a lot of normal going on.

For a start the former president Carles Puigdemont is campaigning from Brussels where he fled with an arrest warrant hanging over him.

The vice president and other candidates are campaigning from prison where they are facing rebellion and sedition charges.

And when it comes to the issues well there is only one being debated - where does each party stand on independence.

Caganer sellers might have a bumper Christmas this year. Credit: ITV News

After a bitter and vicious few months much political face rests on how the votes are cast.

The pro-independence parties, though questioning the legitimacy of the elections, are determined to use them as a way to prove that a majority of Catalans want to split from Spain.

Those who believe in unity are hoping this ballot will finally lay the debate to rest.

The polls are close and it's unlikely any party will secure the 68-seat majority required to control the parliament so once again Catalonia will likely be governed by a coalition.

A pro-unity one would be seen as a great victory for Rajoy and his determination to quiet this restive region.

A pro-independence grouping would strengthen the fight for an independent Catalonia and vindicate those who have battled for it.

The irony is that should the former President or Vice President win over the voters they will have done so using exactly the same ideas and arguments which could yet see them jailed for thirty years should they lose.

Whatever the result with all the political turmoil of the past months the only people who are really winning are the caganer sellers doing a bumper trade in politicians at the Christmas markets.