Catalans brace for independence referendum 

Catalans brace for independence referendum 

Catalans campaign for independence in New York in 2013. Source: Wikimedia

Catalonia seems set on a new collision course with Spain’s government in Madrid after a vow by its leader to hold an independence referendum this year. 

Catalan President Carles Puigdemont promised a “legal and binding” vote in his televised new year’s address.

A consultative vote in 2014, which recorded a large majority for independence, was dismissed by Madrid. Catalan civil servants involved in holding the outlawed 2014 referendum have since faced sanctions and legal action.

Nearly two million Catalans voted in favour of seceding from Spain but turnout was low.

Hundreds of protesters rallied in Mallorca’s city of Palma in support of Catalan independence.

The participants carried red and blue versions of the La Estelada Catalan flag and banners reading, “the Catalan countries” and “One village, one fight, one future” as they marched behind musicians in a peaceful protest.

Catalan MPs in Barcelona began a process for pursuing secession in November with the aim of gaining political independence by 2017, while the federal government is hampered by a series of inconclusive elections. Catalans claim to pay a disproportionate amount of tax to Madrid.

The vote is expected in September, based on a resolution passed by Catalonia’s parliament, where separatists hold a majority.

During the vote in the Catalan parliament, 72 MPs voted in favour of the resolution for independence with 63 against.

Catalonia is one of the country’s richest regions with a distinct cultural and linguistic tradition.

The number of Catalans who oppose secession stood at 46.8 per cent in December, up from 45.1 per cent in November and 42.4 per cent in June, according to the Catalan authority’s official pollster.

Support for independence, meanwhile, was up from November at 45.3 per cent, but down from 47.7 per cent in June, when more people had declared themselves in favour of a separation than against it.

Puigdemont said: “We Catalans will freely decide our own future through a legal and binding referendum.”

On Friday, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said: “It is not possible to hold a referendum that will do away with national sovereignty and the equality of Spaniards.

“This is not going anywhere, I’m offering something which is a lot more reasonable – dialogue. I ask that no more steps are taken in the opposite direction,” Rajoy said.

Rajoy and his right-of-centre Popular Party recently won opposition support to rule as a minority administration following another inconclusive general election in June.

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