Catalonia to seek alternative to referendum

Catalonian separatists. Barcelona, 2012. [Marc Sardon/Flickr]

The leader of Spain’s Catalonia region will call off a referendum on independence from Spain planned for 9 November, and look for alternative ways to consult Catalans, a key regional political party said yesterday (13 October).

Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, a pro-independence party that backs the regional government of Artur Mas, said the Catalan leader had told it and other political forces  yesterday that he would not organise the referendum as planned.

Mas will instead offer to hold a “consultation of citizens,” an ERC spokesman told Reuters.

The referendum was suspended last month by Spain’s constitutional court, but the regional government of Catalonia had not announced a decision to abandon the planned vote.

>> Read: Madrid suspends Catalonia referendum

A spokesman for Mas declined to comment on the news. The spokesman said Mas would hold a press conference on Tuesday at 0800 GMT.

Catalonia, which accounts for around a fifth of Spain’s economy, has its own language and distinct culture and has long fought for greater autonomy.

But the Spanish government has opposed the move because it contends no one group of Spaniards should make decisions on sovereignty that affect the whole country.

ERC said it would back the plan for new consultations but also called for the Catalan parliament to make an immediate declaration of independence. Mas’ party does not hold an absolute majority in the Catalan parliament and needs the backing of ERC to pass laws.

About half of Catalans want more independence from Spain and a vast majority favour holding a vote on their future, polls show. 

When Spain returned to democracy in the mid-1970s, regions such as Catalonia and the Basque Country saw a vibrant resurgence of their culture and languages that had been crushed during the dictatorship of Francisco Franco.

Catalans speak a language similar to, but distinct from, the Castillian Spanish spoken in the rest of Spain. The region accounts for 15% of Spain's population but 20% of its economy.

With Spain's economy in freefall from the euro zone debt crisis, Catalans complain of paying billions of euros more in taxes than they receive back from Madrid.


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