Artur Mas addresses supporters in Barcelona during the last day of campaigning ahead of today's regional elections. Emilio Morenatti/AP

Catalonia votes in poll that could begin independence from Spain

…but Catalan voters could have to wait some time for full independence, with Madrid remaining opposed to the idea.

VOTERS IN THE SPANISH region of Catalonia are today going to the polls in a regional election which could kickstart a long and difficult journey towards full independence from Spain.

Voters will elect politicians to the regional assembly in a snap election, with the incumbent nationalist president Artur Mas promising a referendum on full independence if he wins another term.

Mas, whose Democratic Convergence of Catalonia party currently has 62 seats in the 135-member parliament, could see his party’s share of the vote hold steady – but the People’s Party, led by national prime minister Mariano Rajoy, faces a fight for second place.

A referendum on Catalan independence would probably be approved, with a recent poll by El Pais showing a 46-42 margin in favour of independence.

However, the result of any referendum could not be binding unless Spain itself permits the breakaway – something which is unlikely for the moment, given the political circumstances elsewhere in the country.

Rajoy claims a regional secession would be in breach of the constitution, and would also be hurtful to the country’s chances of emerging from its current economic slump – particularly as Catalonia asked Spain for a €5 billion bailout to help pay its debts earlier this year.

However, many Catalans blame Spain for the region’s own problems, and argue that the region is a net contributor to the Spanish economy – though this is disputed by Madrid.

The elections – which were not required for two years – were called when Mas demanded extra financial autonomy from Spain, a request angrily rebuffed by Rajoy.

Catalonia was part of the Aragon region which was led by King Ferdinand when he married Queen Isabella of Castile in 1469 – a marriage which united the crowns of the two regions and meant the creation of a single Kingdom of Spain.

Read: Mes que une Liga? Catalan vote could see Barca in French league

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