Spain ‘Won’t Have Enough Tanks’: Catalonia to Vote on Independence, Defy Madrid
TEHRAN (Tasnim) - The Catalan regional parliament set November next year for a referendum on the Spanish province’s independence.
Catalonia’s four pro-independence parties, which hold a majority in the regional parliament, announced Thursday that the rich industrial Spanish province will hold a referendum on whether to gain greater autonomy or even total independence from the country’s central government.
The vote’s preliminary date is November 9, Catalan regional government head Artur Mas said. The people will be asked two questions: "Do you want Catalonia to be a state?" and "Do you want that state to be independent?"
The former question was added for those Catalans who seek to change Spain into a federation, with Catalonia forming part of it. According to a Metroscopia poll in newspaper El Pais last month, 46 percent of Catalans favor separatism versus 42 percent who wish to remain within Spain. The support for greater autonomy, however, is very strong, RT reported.
Just minutes after the announcement Spanish Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon rejected the idea, saying it would be unconstitutional.
"The vote will not be held," he said.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy spoke out later in the day, saying his government will not allow the Catalan referendum to happen.
"As prime minister I have sworn to uphold the constitution and the law and, because of this, I guarantee that this referendum will not happen," he stressed. "Any discussion or debate on this is out of the question."
But in Catalonia pro-independence moods are not withered by Madrid’s rebuke. They say the central government would have little options, if it does want to stop the referendum.
"They will have to show how they are going to prevent a vote from happening,” Elisenda Paluzie, professor of economics at the University of Barcelona, told RT. “What are they going to do? Will they send the police to the polling stations? It's up to them to show what kind of democracy they support."
Catalonia, a land with strong cultural roots and its own language, has had strong pro-independence sentiment for decades and shares a painful history with the rest of Spain. It was oppressed during the rule of military dictator Francisco Franco (1939-75), who stripped it of autonomous powers and issued a ban on Catalan language to fight separatist tendencies.