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Catalan leader vows vote can steer ‘political future’

Catalan leader Artur Mas Thursday kicked off campaigning for a regional election billed as an indirect poll on independence from Spain by urging voters to determine their “political future”.

Mas said the vote on September 27 could give “a democratic mandate” for his drive to defy Madrid by breaking the rich northeastern region away from Spain.

“In your hands is the strength and the tool to mark the political future of this nation: the vote,” said Mas, a conservative who is campaigning in an alliance with left-wing nationalists for the election.

“Once the people have spoken through their vote, we will all take on board what the majority decides,” he added, in a speech broadcast late Thursday a few hours before the official start of campaigning.

His speech marked Catalan national day on Friday, when a mass rally for independence is planned in Barcelona.

It comes amid high political tensions in a country recovering from a bitter recession and three months ahead of a general election that could transform Spain’s political landscape.

Recent polls show pro-secession candidates could win a majority of seats in the Catalan parliament.

If they win, Mas has vowed to push through an 18-month roadmap to secession for the region of 7.5 million people, which accounts for a fifth of Spain’s economy.