Catalonia autonomy vote will divide Spain despite result
16 June 2006, BARCELONA — A referendum on Sunday will give voters in Catalonia the chance to decide on an issue which has bitterly divided Spain.
16 June 2006
BARCELONA — A referendum on Sunday will give voters in Catalonia the chance to decide on an issue which has bitterly divided Spain.
Voters in Catalonia have been asked to decide on Sunday if they want more autonomy from Madrid or not.
Though many expect a victory for the 'yes' vote', opinion polls have shown the result may not be so clear.
Fifty-three per cent of those asked said they planned to vote 'yes', 16.4 per cent 'no' while 20 per cent remained undecided, according to a poll by researchers Instituto Opina for the Spanish daily El Pais.
The new so-called statute would update an earlier autonomy agreement drawn up in 1979.
If passed it will give Catalonia a greater share of its income tax, control over immigration, more money from Madrid invested in roads and railways in the region, control over work permits and equal status for Catalan with Spanish as a language.
The new document also includes a controversial phrase in its introduction which says Catalonia can perceives itself as "a nation".
Catalan nationalists hope to increase the degree of self government they were given 26 years ago.
But Spain's conservative opposition Popular Party says approval of the statute would encourage other regions to demand more autonomy and could lead to the breakdown of Spain as a unified country.
And other regions claim it gives Catalonia an unfair advantage.
Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, keen to hang on to key Catalan nationalist support in Parliament, has backed greater autonomy for the region.
But the left-wing Catalan nationalist party Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya has been campaigning against the statute and demands power for the region.
The issue has split Spain since the Catalan regional parliament agreed the document last September.
The majority of Spaniards outside Catalonia are opposed to the region having any more power, arguing it already enjoys considerable independence from Madrid.
In protest, many Spaniards started a damaging boycott of cava, the sparkling wine produced in Catalonia.
Lieutenant General José Mena, former head of the Spanish army, was sacked after threatening a coup d'etat if Catalonia's bid for more autonomy challenged the Spanish Constitution.
Whatever the result of Sunday's vote, the Spanish Parliament will have the final say later this year.
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]
Subject: Spanish news