Catalonia steps up separatist challenge with Oct. 1 vote

Pauline Gross
June 9, 2017

Catalonia's long awaited referendum on independence from Spain will be held on October 1, the regional government announced on Friday, reported The Guardian.

People will be asked to vote on the question: "Do you want Catalonia to be an independent state in the form of a republic", Carles Puigdemont said in Barcelona.

Barcelona mayor Ada Colau, a prominent figure in Spain's new anti-establishment left movement, has rejected supporting a vote that is not agreed with central authorities.

Previous secessionist challenges in Catalonia - a populous wealthy region whose capital is Barcelona and which has its own language - were blocked by Spain's conservative government and the Constitutional Court. Separatist politicians in the northeastern region have tried for years to win approval from Spain's central government for a vote like Scotland's 2014 referendum on independence from Britain, which resulted in a "no" vote.

It is unclear how the regional government will overcome the legal challenges this time around. More than 80% of participants opted for independence in a symbolic poll held three years ago staged by pro-independence campaigners - although only 2.3 million of Catalonia's 5.4 million eligible voters took part. It can invoke Article 155 of the Constitution, which would enable it to suspend regional autonomy in order to block a vote.

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Puigdemont now wants a binding referendum - even though Madrid has pledged to be just as tough this time round.

That position, set out forcefully by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in recent weeks, enjoys broad support both in the national parliament and Spain's constitutional court.

Catalonia's officials have had little luck pushing their project overseas either.

Civil servants such as the police or the heads of schools where polling stations could be set up, for instance, will be needed to help organise the vote.

The Spanish government, however, is confident that it can stop the referendum from happening in the first place. In a speech last month, Puigdemont said his government had a "democratically inviolable" commitment to the referendum and accused Spain of failing to do anything "serious, honest or real" to resolve the issue.

Other reports by GizPress

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