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Is Spain about to fall apart as a country?

A regional election in Catalonia is being treated like a de facto vote on independence by those on the Yes side.
Sep 28th 2015, 2:45 PM 27,120 54

LAST NIGHT REGIONAL elections in Spain saw pro-independence parties taking victory in the Catalan district.

The snap election had been billed as a plebiscite on secession by those in favour of Catalonia breaking away from Spain and forming its own state.

The result saw the Junts Pel Sí (Together for Yes) party party take 62 seats, and the far-left group Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP) take 10 seats.

Spain Catalonia Independence Catalonia leader Artur Mas Source: AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti

The regions 135-seat parliament requires 68 seats for a majority, meaning that a likely coalition between the two would see the parliament in total control of pro-separatist groupings.

Why does Catalonia want to break away from Spain? 

A number of factors have led to a growth in the push for independence over the past five years.

A seminal moment came in 2010 when the Constitutional Court of Spain voted down a 2006 statute that had given the region more governing powers and financial autonomy.

Spain Catalonia Independence Catalonian pro-independence supporters celebrating in Barcelona Source: AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti

This saw huge opposition, with over 1 million people taking to the streets to oppose the decision.

The feeling among many Catalans is that centralised decision making from Madrid has a bias against it, and that as one of Spain’s most prosperous regions it doesn’t get a fair deal when it comes to spending.

Many Catalans are annoyed at the deficit that exists between the amount of money that goes to Madrid in taxation, and the amount they receive back in spending.

A ruling in the 1978 Constitution of Spain prevents any further autonomy being extended to the region, something that was reflected in the 2006 Constitutional Court decision.

Last year, a non-binding vote was held on independence in the region, with voters being asked if they wanted Catalonia to become a state, and if so, if they wanted it to be an independent state.

Slightly more than 80% of those who voted backed independence.

Spain Catalonia Independence A 'estelada' pro-independence flag in Barcelona yesterday Source: AP Photo/Emilio Morenatt

The region is led by pro-separatist President Artur Mas, who was elected in 2010. Campaigning hard to frame the regional vote as a referendum on independence, Mas declared, “Today was a double victory – the yes side won, as did democracy.

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Will Spain be breaking apart? 

While framed as a vote on independence, the vote itself has no immediate impact on the autonomy of the region.

There is substantial opposition to it from Spain’s central government, with suggestion that an outright referendum would be illegal.

Belgium EU Migrants Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy Source: AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert

Mariano Rajoy, Prime Minister of the country and leader of the People’s Party has been vocal in his opposition of a potential secession, calling for a silent majority within the region to oppose independence.

For a referendum to take place on independence, the central government would have to transfer autonomy to the region in the same way that it happened in Scotland during their vote for independence, something that is unlikely to happen.

Before yesterday’s election, the ‘Together for Yes’ group state that it would declare independence within 18 months if pro-secession parties achieved an overall majority of the popular vote, something that they fell just short of doing.

Following the result the Spanish government stated that it would continue to “guarantee the unity of Spain”.

Read: Catalan leaders want voters to “give the finger” to Spain

Also: Four people were gored to death by bulls over the weekend

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Michael Sheils McNamee


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