Catalan parliament backs independence vote
Catalonia's rift with Madrid looks set to widen following a vote in the region's parliament to leave Spain.
On Thursday (9 October), Catalan lawmakers backed plans for a referendum, next September, on whether to remain a part of greater Spain. The bid obtained 72 votes in favour and 11 abstentions.
The move largely defies an August decision by Spain's Constitutional Court that annulled their demands to press ahead with independence. Spain's caretaker prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, has also repeatedly refused to back any measure that could lead to a split.
But the prosperous northeastern region remains defiant.
Catalonia's regional president Carles Puigdemont earlier in January promised independence in 18 months. They are also setting up state structures, including a Catalan tax authority, to prepare for any future separation.
"By the end of June 2017, we will have the state structures prepared to become an independent state," said Puigdemont in September.
Puigdemont is also pressing ahead despite moves by state prosecutors, earlier this month, to ban Catalonia's former separatist chief Artur Mas from holding public office for ten years. Mas is facing the ban for his role in staging a non-binding symbolic vote for Catalan independence in November 2014.
Polls over the summer show that support for Catalan independence hovered at around 48 percent.
The latest Catalan plan also comes amid a political stalemate at the national level as party leaders fail to form a government coalition despite two elections in the past 10 months.
The Spanish electorate are largely upset over issues linked to unemployment and a string of corruption cases among the political elite.