Catalans cast more votes in symbolic independence referendum

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Thousand of people in six towns across Catalonia cast ballots Sunday in a fresh round of a symbolic referendum on whether the wealthy region in northeastern Spain should declare independence.

Organisers said about 200,000 people were eligible to vote on the referendum, which has no legal significance. The ballot was held in the Mediterranean port of Tarragona, the Barcelona suburb of Rubi and four other locations.

The referendum was staged by local associations that back separatism for Catalonia, which has a population of seven million and already enjoys considerable autonomy, and it is also supported by some political parties.

Over 580,000 people participaed in four other rounds of a similar referendum held in December, February, April and June in which 93 percent cast ballots in favour of seceding from Spain but in which turnout was only about one-fifth of eligible voters.

Polling stations have been manned by separatists and they have been mostly set up in areas of strong support. Organisers hope they will bolster the case for a region-wide vote on separation in the future.

Analysts say a Catalonia-wide referendum on independence from Spain was unlikely since a valid referendum needed the approval of the Spanish parliament in Madrid.

In 2008 Spain's central government blocked a bid by the regional government of the northern Basque Country to hold its own referendum on separation.

Separatist parties won 14 percent of the vote in the last elections to the Catalan regional parliament in 2006. Polls indicated they will make gains in the next Catalan regional elections on November 28.

© 2010 AFP

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