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MADRID: An overwhelming majority in the powerful northeastern region of Catalonia want a referendum on independence, an opinion poll showed yesterday, highlighting increasing dissatisfaction with Spain’s central government as it struggles with economic crisis.
Although a referendum has been rejected by Madrid, which says it would be against the constitution, the poll published by La Vanguardia newspaper also showed a majority in favour of independence in Catalonia, one of Spain’s richer regions.
With Catalans arguing they are unfairly treated by the central government and could better manage their finances on their own, the poll showed 81.5 percent wanted a referendum.
Fifty-three percent said they would vote in favour of independence, while 35 percent would vote against. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy reiterated on Saturday that a referendum could not be held as it would run counter to the constitution, introduced in 1978 to underpin Spain’s transition to democracy after the death of dictator Francisco Franco.
Rajoy said in a speech in Barcelona, the regional capital, that Catalonia needed Spain as much as Spain needed Catalonia.
A secession is seen as unlikely by most analysts, but the demands for a referendum show the growing strains in Spain’s post-Franco political consensus as the country struggles to cut debt while facing unemployment running at 25 percent.
Regional leader Artur Mas has called for an early election on Nov. 25, after his claims for more fiscal autonomy were rejected by the central government last month.