Madrid - Local lawmakers in the northeastern Spanish region of Catalonia voted to seek a referendum on breaking away from Spain on Thursday, setting themselves up for a battle with an implacably imposed central government in Madrid.
The Catalan Parliament in Barcelona voted 87 to 43, with 3 abstentions, to send a petition to the national parliament seeking the power to call a popular vote on the region's future.
The independence movement in Catalonia, which has its own language and represents a fifth of Spain's national economy, is a direct challenge to Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who has pledged to block a referendum on constitutional grounds.
Independence for the region, which already has significant self-governing powers, is thus considered a remote possibility, but Catalan President Artur Mas is buoyed by a groundswell of public support to defy Madrid with plans for a referendum. - Reuters