Catalan secession drive: Lawmakers defy court, push formation of separate state

Madrid, Spain Published: Jul 27, 2016, 03:58 PM(IST)

In photo: People wave Spanish flags as they protest outside the Parliament of Catalonia during a parliamentary session to pass the start of the independence process on November 9, 2015 in Barcelona. Photograph:( Getty )

Catalan lawmakers defied Spain's Constitutional Court today and approved a text calling on the region to push ahead with its bid to forge a separate state with or without Madrid's approval.

The text outlines the steps Catalonia -- a northeastern region of 7.5 million people that is divided over splitting from Spain -- needs to take to defend its right to auto-determination.

It argues the "only way possible" for Catalans to exercise their right to decide on their future is if the region "disconnects" from the Spanish state and disobeys Spanish institutions.

Pro-secession parties hold a slim majority in the 135-seat Catalan parliament and the text was approved with 72 votes in favour.

Spain's Constitutional Court warned last week that approval of the text would be illegal and the central government has consistently dismissed any secession plans as "nonsense".

Ines Arrimadas, the leader of the main opposition centrist party Ciudadanos, called the approval of the text a "strike against democracy".

Xavier Garcia Albiol, the head of the Catalan branch of the conservative Popular Party which governs at the national level, warned that disobeying Spanish institutions "would have a cost".

Pro-independence parties in Catalonia won an absolute majority in the regional parliament for the first time in a September 2015 election which they billed as a proxy referendum on independence from Spain.

The main separatist "Together for Yes" alliance and the smaller, anti-capitalist CUP party won a combined 72 seats in the 135-seat parliament.

But their share of the vote was just 48 per cent, giving their opponents a powerful argument against secession.

Spain's Constitutional Court has already taken measures against Catalonia's independence drive.

It suspended an independence referendum called by the Catalan government in 2014 as well as a resolution passed by Catalonia's parliament in November declaring the start of a secession process.

Many in Catalonia, which boasts its own language and customs, want autonomy from Madrid.

Spain's recent economic downturn exacerbated the situation, leaving many resenting the amount of taxes they pay to the central government in Madrid to subsidise poorer Spanish regions.

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