Spain brands Catalan breakaway vote a failure

12th November 2014, Comments 0 comments

Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Wednesday branded the Catalonia region's symbolic vote on independence a failure and rejected its call for a full referendum on breaking away from Spain.

In his first public reaction to the ballot, he invited Catalan leaders to propose constitutional reforms to further their demands, but warned he would not negotiate on demands for a full independence vote.

Catalonia's president Artur Mas had reached out to Madrid to soften its resistance after 1.

86 million people in the rich northeastern region backed independence in Sunday's symbolic vote.

"If Mr Mas intends to reform the constitution.

he has a perfect right" to propose measures in the regional parliament, Rajoy told a news conference.

"What he wants to do is impose a real referendum on me, and I can tell you now that cannot be," he added, however.

"I will oppose any constitutional change that weakens national sovereignty.

"Catalonia's leaders said 2.

3 million people in the region of 7.

5 million turned out for Sunday's vote, which was stripped of legal force after challenges from Madrid.

Of the 5.

4 million voters aged over 16 who were authorised to vote, 1.

86 million favoured independence, they said.

Rajoy said the vote was an "act of political propaganda" to which "two out of three Catalans paid no attention".

"We have witnessed a deep failure for the independence movement," he said.

- Financial 'instability' risk -Rajoy has branded a referendum unconstitutional and vowed to defend the unity of Spain as it recovers from a six-year economic crisis.

He complained on Wednesday that recent tensions with Catalonia had created "instability".

The global credit ratings agency Fitch said in a report on Catalonia this week that the dispute risked scaring off investors in Catalonia in the short term if it dragged on.

Demands for independence in Catalonia have grown over recent years despite Madrid's resistance, fanned by the economic crisis.

The region accounts for nearly a fifth of Spain's economy but is also one of its most indebted regions.

Mas has not ruled out calling a snap regional election to be fought exclusively on the independence issue.

On Tuesday he had reached out to Rajoy for a "permanent dialogue" with a view to holding "a definitive and politically binding consultation" vote in the region.

He said he would hold talks over the coming weeks with other Catalan political parties to gauge support for such a move.

State prosecutors are meanwhile investigating whether Catalan authorities breached court injunctions by opening polling stations in public buildings.

With the dispute looking likely to drag on into next year, when regional and general elections are due, some in the ruling Popular Party have called for lawsuits against Mas himself.

Rajoy declined to comment on whether state prosecutors would bring charges against Mas for pushing ahead with the vote in defiance of injunctions by the Constitutional Court.

Mas told the Catalan regional parliament that suing him for holding the ballot, which was covered by the world's media, would give Spain a bad image.

"You may disagree with a political initiative, but there is no need to systematically take it to court," Mas said.

© 2014 AFP

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