Region’s leader Artur Mas, who has promised independence referendum, is expected to fall short of overall majority.
The Guardian, By Martin Roberts, November 25
Madrid – Catalans have begun voting in elections that could lead to the north-eastern region breaking away from Spain, after the region’s leader Artur Mas made the running in the campaign by vowing to hold a referendum on independence for rich but indebted Catalonia.
Unlike the Scottish referendum set for 2014 in agreement with London, the central government in Spain has pledged to block an independence vote for Catalonia by appealing to the constitutional court, which stopped the Basque country from holding a similar plebiscite in 2008.
Voting closes at 8pm local time (19:00 GMT), and exit polls are expected shortly afterwards. A Sigma Dos opinion poll for the Guardian on Thursday predicted that Mas’s Convergència i Unió (CiU) party would fall 9-11 seats short of an overall majority in the Catalan parliament, meaning he would have to reach deals with smaller parties to hold the referendum he has promised within a four-year mandate.
“Catalonia is one of the oldest nations in Europe and the world. We have overcome all our difficulties: we have fought the military and dictatorships, and we’re still alive,” Mas said on Friday, the last day of campaigning allowed by law.