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September 20, 2017

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Catalonian parliament passes law for October 1 independence vote

MADRID - The Spanish region of Catalonia is set to have an independence referendum on October 1 after a contentious parliamentary session in which separatists fought back opposition protests.

The measure passed with 72 affirmative votes on Wednesday. There were eleven abstentions. Most opposition parties, among them the conservatives, the socialists and liberals boycotted, meaning there were no votes against.

If the region pushes through with the referendum, it will move even further on its path towards a collision course with the national government in Madrid, which has repeatedly argued that any attempt to break away from Spain will not be recognized.

The state legislature move is important, as the legal underpinnings for such a referendum have been questioned. Now that it has been approved legislatively, Catalonian Prime Minister Carles Puigdemont is expected to sign the measure into law either late Wednesday or early Thursday.

However, the Spanish Constitutional Court is already expected to review the law this week and declare it null and void, as it has done with similar attempts in the past.

Should the referendum take place and yield a majority for seceding, supporters say they would move to break away from Spain "within two days."

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy repeated a few days ago that there is no way he would allow the economically important region to break away.

"The Catalonians cannot carry out this referendum as planned because they are not allowed to do so either by the constitution or existing law."

Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria called the planned referendum a "violent act" similar to what one might expect from a "dictatorial regime."

She charged that democracy was being abused in Catalonia.

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