Catalonia's regional election, moved forward by one year and occurring just weeks before Spain's general election, is seen as another run at independence.
Reuters noted that the referendum announcement reignites the deeply divisive issue of the region's status. Catalonians voted in an unsanctioned referendum in 2014, but Madrid contends their overwhelming Yes for independence has no legal basis. Madrid's opposition to the region's separation rests in part on Catalonia's value to Spain's frail economy; Catalonia accounts for one fifth of Spain's economic output.
Of the 2.3 million voters, 81 per cent said Yes in the 2014 referendum. Britain's Economist reported after the poll that Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy contends that a vote not sanctioned by Madrid would be unconstitutional. The magazine adds that the decision can be regarded as either a piece of mass civil disobedience led by Catalan president Artur Mas, or an entirely legal mock referendum that puts pressure on Madrid to stage a real one.
Date written/update: 2015-01-20