Catalonia scraps independence referendum

2014-10-14 18:15

Madrid - Catalan leader Artur Mas said on Tuesday that he had cancelled an independence referendum planned on 9 November and that the Spanish region would instead hold an alternative vote on the same date to determine the level of support for secession.

"The government of Catalonia maintains the objective of organising the 9-November referendum; there will be polling stations, ballot boxes and ballots", Mas said during a speech, using the common shorthand for the secessionist movement.

But the vote, he added, would not be "definitive".

In September Mas signed a decree to allow the wealthy region with more than 7.5 million inhabitants to vote in a non-binding referendum.

On Monday, Mas called off the referendum saying that there was no legal support for the measure, which had previously been suspended by Spain's constitutional court after the government contested it.

The announcement signals an unofficial poll that would glean public opinion for independence from Spain. Mas said a consensus among Catalan lawmakers for the separatist movement was lacking, but added that the poll could precede elections to formalise its outcome.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy welcomed the news, saying that "sometimes great news last a few hours".