Catalonia to call poll as proxy independence vote
Catalonia was poised on Monday to call an early regional election that will serve as a proxy vote on independence from Spain, raising tensions with the central government in Madrid.
Catalan president Artur Mas will sign a decree setting Sept. 27 as the date for the vote in the wealthy northeastern region, which is home to 7.5 million people and accounts for one fifth of Spain’s output.
Mas has said that if an alliance of pro-secession parties wins a majority, they will aim to split from Spain within 18 months despite Madrid’s opposition.
The regional government has already started setting up institutions of state, which would swing into gear if the pro-independence camp wins.
“We are ready,” Mas repeatedly says during public appearances.
Last week, Catalan officials presented plans for a future Catalan tax agency and adopted a decree paving the way for a public credit institution to be turned into a Catalan central bank.
‘Together for yes’
The issue of Catalan indepen- dence has been thrust onto the back burner in recent months, with Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s government more focused on the challenge in a year-end general election from new anti-austerity party Podemos than from Catalan separatists.
But it bounced back into the political spotlight in July after pro-independence parties set aside their differences and agreed to run on a joint ticket in the regional polls.
The joint list, called “Together for ‘Yes,’” includes Mas’s conservative nationalist CDC party, the left-wing separatist ERC and members of influential associa- tions which have in recent years organized massive pro-independence demonstrations in the region.
A smaller far-left party supporting independence, CUP, has refused to join the alliance but could prove key to achieving the majority in the regional assembly which the pro-independence camp says would be sufficient to implement its secession plans.
Spain’s central government has vowed to oppose Catalonia’s moves.
“There will be no independence for Catalonia,” Rajoy told a news conference on Friday.