Catalonia Schedules Independence Referendum for Next Year

Catalonia plans vote on independence despite opposition from Spain.

In this photo taken Oct. 20, 2013, boys and girls play chess near a polling station collecting votes for the Parliament of Catalonia to approve a referendum on whether Catalonia should be an independent state.
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Pro-independence parties in Catalonia announced Thursday they will hold a referendum Nov. 9 on whether or not the region should become independent from Spain.

 Artur Mas, Catalonia's regional government leader, said the vote would consist of two questions: "Do you want Catalonia to be a state?" and "Do you want that state to be independent?"

The announcement came despite the Spanish government's opposition to the move.

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"The vote will not be held," Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon told reporters Thursday in Spain's parliament building.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy also refused to accept the referendum.

"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," Rajoy said, according to Reuters.

Spain's constitution does not allow any of its 17 regions to break away from the government, making next year's referendum vote illegal.

Both the People's Party and the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party oppose Catalonia's breakaway from Spain and have primarily ignored the region's independence rhetoric for years. But as Spain's economic recession has continued, Catalonia -- in the northeastern corner of the country -- has become more serious about its independence, with proponents saying it would be better off as a separate state, The Christian Science Monitor reports.

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A poll held by the newspaper El Pais showed that 46 percent of Catalans favored independence from Spain, while 42 percent wish to remain a part of Spain. But that same poll said that the majority of Catalonia would be appeased if the Spanish government gave them more autonomy, rather than severing ties completely.

"I think they will call a referendum and, whatever its result, the Catalans end up winning ... because, although the result is not binding, it is a very powerful weapon with which to exert pressure," Rafa Rubio, who teaches constitutional law at Madrid's Complutense University, told Reuters.

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