Catalonia seeks right to vote on independence

Catalonia's lawmakers voted on Thursday to demand the right to hold a referendum on declaring independence from Spain, flying in the face of outright opposition in Madrid.

Catalonia seeks right to vote on independence
An woman with a a banner reading "My name is Catalonia" outside the region's parliament during a vote for a petition to the national parliament, in Barcelona on Thursday. Photo: Josep Lago/AFP

Catalan political chief Artur Mas's ruling coalition and a majority of other parties in the northeastern Spanish region are calling for a November 9th, 2014 referendum that would ask voters two questions:

   – "Do you think that Catalonia should be a State, yes or no?"
   – "If yes, do you want that State to be independent, yes or no?"

With 87 votes in favour, 43 against, and three abstentions, Catalan lawmakers agreed to submit a proposed law to the national parliament in Madrid, which would delegate to the region "the capacity to authorise, convoke and organize a referendum on the political future of Catalonia".

The proposal appears doomed from the start, however, given that a Catalan independence referendum is opposed by Spain's two largest national parties: the ruling conservative Popular Party and the main opposition Socialist Party.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy last month vowed to block the attempted referendum.

"It is unconstitutional and it will not take place," Rajoy told a news conference just hours after the plan was unveiled.

"This initiative collides head-on with the foundation of the constitution which is the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation," the premier said.

Proud of their distinct language and culture and fed up after five years of stop-start recession, many of the 7.5 million people in Catalonia want to redraw the map of Spain, saying they feel short-changed by the central government which redistributes their taxes.

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