Friday, August 7

Catalonia calls snap vote in fresh independence push

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BARCELONA: Catalonia on Wednesday called a snap election for September centred on its independence bid, just two months after the wealthy region held a contested symbolic referendum on the issue that strained ties with Spain’s central government.

Catalan president Artur Mas said the vote will be held on Sept 27, just a few months before Spain is expected to hold a general election, and exactly a year after he signed a decree calling an independence referendum which was blocked by Madrid in the courts.

“So one year after I signed this decree the Catalan people will have the possibility to vote for the state of Catalonia and even for an independent state,” he told a news conference, speaking in English.

“We will see on that date if there is a social majority in favour of this political process. This is something that the Catalan people have to decide,” he added.

Campaigning for the snap election will kick off on Sept 11, Catalonia’s national day which has seen hundreds of thousands of people turn out in pro-independence demonstrations in Barcelona in the past three years.

Regional elections were not due in Catalonia, which accounts for one fifth of Spain’s economic output, until 2016.

Mas defied Madrid and on Nov 9 went ahead with a symbolic independence referendum organised by volunteers, after the Spanish government used the Constitutional Court to block plans for an official vote.

Some 80 per cent of the nearly 2.3 million who voted on Nov 9 backed secession, but the turnout was little more than 40 per cent.

After the poll Mas outlined a new roadmap towards independence, which included a proposal for early regional elections.

His goal is to obtain an absolute majority and a powerful mandate to open independence negotiations with Madrid within 18 months, paving the way for a binding referendum next year. But Mas has struggled to persuade separatist parties to join his conservative CiU coalition on a joint list.

Under the agreement which Mas reached with Oriol Junqueras – the leader of Catalonia’s second-biggest party, the separatist ERC – the two parties will run separate tickets but with a common roadmap toward secession. — AFP