Catalonia approves independence referendum on Oct 1, Spanish govt vows to prevent vote

Catalan regional President Carles Puigdemont attends a news conference at Palau de la Generalitat in Barcelona, Spain on Sep 5, 2017.
Catalan regional President Carles Puigdemont attends a news conference at Palau de la Generalitat in Barcelona, Spain on Sep 5, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

MADRID (Reuters, AFP) - Catalonia’s regional Parliament on Wednesday (Sept 6) agreed to vote on a disputed Bill that paves the way for a referendum on independence from Spain on Oct 1 which is fiercely opposed by Madrid.
 
The motion to vote on the Bill was approved with 72 votes in favour, 60 against and three abstentions amid jeers from opponents of independence for the wealthy northeastern region of Spain.

Polls in the northeastern region, whose caital is Barcelona, show support for self-rule waning as Spain's economy improves. But the majority of Catalans do want the opportunity to vote on whether to split from Spain.

There will be no minimum turnout requirement to make the result of the vote binding, regional government head Carles Puigdemont said in a recent briefing with journalists. Ballot boxes, voting papers and an electoral census are at the ready, he said.

Under the terms of the new laws, the Catalan Parliament will declare independence within 48 hours of a 'yes' vote.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy told a news conference on Monday that the government would come down with all the force of the law to ensure no referendum would go ahead on Oct 1.

"In one day they hope to do away with the Constitution and national sovereignty. They will not do it," he said. "No one can do away with Spanish democracy."

Courts have already suspended from office Catalan politicians who organised a non-binding referendum in 2014, which returned a 'yes' vote on a low turnout.

In addition, a Spanish audit office has demanded the former leader of Catalonia, Mr Artur Mas, and other politicians pay a 5 million euro (S$8.06 million) fine by Sept 25 for holding the 2014 vote, El Pais newspaper reported on Tuesday.

Catalan leader Puigdemont described the move as intimidation ahead of the planned October referendum.