Spanish govt vows to block Catalonia poll

By AFP – Reuters Source:AFP - Reuters Published: 2013-12-13 1:08:01

The Spanish government vowed on Thursday to block Catalonia's plan to hold an independence poll on November 9 next year.

"The poll will not be held," Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon told journalists just moments after Catalonia's president Artur Mas announced on the same day a deal among regional parties for the date and wording of a referendum.

Political parties in Catalonia agreed in principle to ask residents on November 9, 2014, whether they think Catalonia should be an independent state, regional leader Artur Mas told reporters.

Proud of their Catalan language and culture, but suffering from Europe's  economic crisis, many of the 7.5 million people in debt-laden Catalonia say they feel short-changed by the Spanish central government which redistributes their taxes.

Catalonia wants more say over taxes and public spending, demands that have come to a head as Spain has implemented tough austerity measures to cut its budget deficit.

A grouping of parties led by Mas's governing CiU alliance agreed to put two questions to voters, asking first, "Do you think that Catalonia should be a state, yes or no?"

The second question for voters in the referendum would be, "If yes, do you want that state to be independent, yes or no?"

"We have an agreement in principle to hold the consultation next year" on November 9, Mas said.

The agreement now has yet to be formally approved by each of the Catalan parties internally.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's conservative government refuses to countenance a break-up of Spain, and has vowed to block a referendum on constitutional grounds.

Mas insisted on Thursday, "There will be time for the Spanish state to negotiate with the Catalan institutions over how to hold this consultation in accordance with existing legal norms."

The European nation's ruling People's Party and the main opposition Socialists have both decried Catalonia's breakaway rhetoric.

Both have lost substantial voter support in the region as tensions between Catalonia and Madrid have risen.

Catalonia has long been considered an engine of Spain's economy, but it has suffered in the economic crisis of recent years.

On September 11, Catalonia's national day, hundreds of thousands of Catalans massed in a vast human chain stretching across the region to demand independence.

Catalonia's national day recalls the conquest of Barcelona by Spanish king Philip V's forces in 1714.

Polls show that around half Catalonia's residents would choose independence in a yes-or-no breakaway referendum.

The region, whose capital is Barcelona, makes up a fifth of the Spanish economy and around 15 percent of its electorate.

AFP - Reuters

Posted in: Europe

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