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Spain files challenge to Catalonia referendum

Spanish government has rolled out a legal roadblock to stop the Catalonia region voting on independence as the prime minister calls the November 9 referendum “a grave attack on the rights of all Spaniards”.

Mariano Rajoy said on Monday that the government filed appeals before the country’s constitutional court, challenging both the referendum call and a law passed by the Catalan government that allowed Catalan regional leader Artur Mas to call the vote.

He said that the constitution “was based on the indissoluble unity of the Spanish state”.

If the Constitutional Court takes on the appeals, as is widely expected to happen this week, both the law and the referendum will automatically be suspended while the court deliberates, a process that could take months or years.

Catalan dream

Unhappy at Spain’s refusal to give it more powers, Catalonia has vowed for months to hold the referendum. The move is the latest secession push in Europe following Scotland’s recent vote to remain in Britain.

Polls indicate most Catalans favour holding the referendum but are roughly evenly split on independence.

Catalonia, whose capital is Barcelona, has prepared ballot boxes and begun publicity campaigns to inform the region’s five million voters about the referendum.

Rajoy said it was not too late for the Catalan government to change direction, adding that he remained opened to talks.

Buoyed by mass street demonstrations, Mas has pushed ahead for a vote in defiance of Rajoy’s warnings.

“You cannot use the law to prevent people indefinitely from stating their opinion,” Mas said in a television interview on Sunday in anticipation of Monday’s appeal.

“Voting on November is the best thing for everyone because it will allow us and also the Spanish government to know what the Catalan people’s opinion is.”

Independence call

Catalonia is Spain’s economic powerhouse, accounting for about a fifth of the country’s economy. But it suffered like all of Spain from the property crash and ensuing economic downturn sparked by the 2008-2012 global financial crisis.

Proud of their Catalan language and culture, many of the region’s 7.5 million inhabitants feel short-changed by the government in Madrid which redistributes their taxes.

The independence movement in Catalonia has gathered strength in recent years as Spain’s economic crisis has increased unemployment and hardship in the region and swelled its debts.

Catalonia formally adopted the status of a “nation” in 2006 but the Constitutional Court overruled that claim.

Source: Al Jazeera

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