THE CATALAN QUESTION

Mas: Catalonia referendum must be legal or “tolerated” by Spain

Pro-sovereignty premier moots early elections if Madrid blocks region’s status vote

Catalan premier Artur Mas has reiterated that a referendum on independence should be held next year, but only if it is legal or "tolerated" by Madrid. Otherwise, he will call early regional elections "as a last resort if there is an attempt to silence the voice of the Catalan people."

Mas said he will drive the issue through "to the end" and use "all the democratic and legal instruments" at his disposal to do so. However, the premier did not clarify if Catalans would be asked a direct question on separation from Spain or a softer one over a change of status, as moderate factions of his ruling CiU coalition have called for.

"Before the end of the year we will fix a date, the content of the question and the legal framework to be used: there are five possibilities," Mas said.

He termed the human chain in favor of independence that stretched across the region on the September 11 Catalan National Day as a "call for dignity," adding that "Catalonia has real affection for Spain, but no longer trusts the Spanish state."

The regional premier spoke of the need to seek "the largest social majority" to make the demand for a referendum "undisputable" to the central government. "The minority cannot block the path that the majority has decided to take," he added. Recent polls suggest that a majority support the idea of independence.

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