Coming up

Don't miss




Romania strengthens military cooperation with the US

Read more


Web users celebrate release of French hostages

Read more


Justine Dupont, surfer

Read more


In Prijedor, survivors fight to keep memory alive

Read more


Indian election: Votes for sale

Read more


Freed French Hostages: Celebration and speculation on how it all happened

Read more


Todd Shepard, Author of 'The Algerian War and the Remaking of France'

Read more


Guillaume Poitrinal, Chief executive of Woodeum

Read more


A landslide victory for the 'invisible candidate' in Algeria

Read more

  • Russia accuses Kiev of 'grossly' violating Geneva deal

    Read more

  • ‘I suffered mock executions,’ says freed French journalist

    Read more

  • S.Korea president says captain’s action akin to ‘murder’

    Read more

  • Boston readies for first marathon since bombings

    Read more

  • France marks 70 years of women’s voting rights

    Read more

  • Abdullah widens lead in Afghan presidential vote

    Read more

  • Leftist Sabahi to challenge Sisi for Egypt presidency

    Read more

  • Syria to hold presidential election on June 3

    Read more

  • The Great War's unsung four-legged heroes

    Read more

  • Video: Ukraine crisis overshadows Easter celebrations

    Read more

  • UK’s Hamilton cruises to victory at Chinese Grand Prix

    Read more

  • In pictures: French kite festival takes flight

    Read more

  • Freed French journalists arrive home after Syria ordeal

    Read more

  • Syria’s Assad visits recaptured Christian town at Easter

    Read more

  • Le Pen’s National Front fail to woo Britain’s Eurosceptics

    Read more

  • PSG clinch fourth League Cup title after beating Lyon

    Read more

  • Why Syria’s cash-strapped jihadists let hostages go

    Read more

  • Militants kill Algerian soldiers in deadly ambush

    Read more

  • Scores killed in South Sudan cattle raid

    Read more


Catalan leader urges fight for ‘freedom’ on eve of elections


Latest update : 2012-11-24

The leader of Spain’s Catalonia region Artur Mas urged voters to fight for “freedom” on the eve of snap regional elections, angering Madrid by promising a referendum on sovereignty for the region if Sunday’s vote goes his way.

The leader of Spain's Catalonia region has rallied crowds cheering for independence to fight for "freedom" in snap elections Sunday that he has cast as a vote for nationhood.

Artur Mas, president of the northeastern region, is openly defying a furious Madrid by promising a referendum on sovereignty for Catalonia if Sunday's vote gives him a mandate.

"We are not vassals of the state," he told thousands of people chanting "independence" in a Barcelona stadium Friday, wrapping up a bitterly fought campaign before a day of pre-vote reflection Saturday.

Mas urged supporters to be "builders of freedom".

"Catalonia is one of the oldest nations of Europe and all through history we have had to fight against very high obstacles, very strong setbacks," he said, slipping into English to reach a foreign audience.

"We have fought against armies, we have fought against dictatorships, we have overcome setbacks and now we are alive, our culture is alive, our language is alive, our nation is alive."

Fiercely proud

Catalonia is fiercely proud of its language and culture, which were suppressed by General Francisco Franco until the dictator's death in 1975 but returned to life under Spanish democracy.

The region has been welded to Spain since the nation's symbolic birth when Queen Isabella of Castile and King Ferdinand of Aragon, which included Catalonia, married in 1469.

In a forest of banners, Catalan and European flags at the stadium where Mas brought his campaign to a close, some placards called for Mas as president of a new Catalan nation.

"I'm for independence," said one supporter, 20-year-old student Anna Roses. "Artur Mas does not say the word because Madrid is putting on the pressure, but it's the only solution," she added.

As Spain struggles in a recession, with one in four workers unemployed, many Catalans are straining against Madrid, which they blame for spending cuts and their troubled finances.

Mas accuses Madrid of raising far more in Catalan taxes than it returns and estimates the gap, or fiscal deficit, at 16 billion euros ($21 billion) a year, a figure Madrid disputes.

Emboldened by huge protests in Barcelona demanding independence on Catalonia's national day, September 11, Mas demanded greater taxing powers from Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

When he did not get the concessions he was seeking, he called the snap election.

Rajoy's right-leaning government is determined to thwart any referendum, however, saying it flies in the face of common sense and vowing to wield the Spanish constitution if necessary.

The prime minister condemned Mas's decision to call regional elections two years early, saying it was wasting precious time needed to salvage the economy and "creating a great division".

Speaking in Brussels after a European Union summit Friday, the Spanish leader said he hoped for a return to "common sense" after the election. "In the end, I don't know what all this has all been for," he said.

Latest polls show Mas's nationalist alliance, the conservative Convergence and Union, heading for a win in Sunday's vote but falling short of the absolute majority he is seeking.

Surveys a week before the vote showed Mas's party taking 60 to 64 of the 135 seats in parliament, not far from the 62 it now holds, with Rajoy's Popular Party and the opposition Socialists fighting for second place.

Nevertheless, pro-referendum parties are widely expected to enjoy a large majority in the new parliament.

Catalonia accounts for more than one-fifth of Spain's total economic output, a quarter of its exports, as well as boasting one of the world's greatest football teams, FC Barcelona.

But the region also has a 44-billion-euro debt, equal to one-fifth of its output, and was forced to go cap in hand to Madrid this year for more than five billion euros to help make the payments.

'Dirty' campaign

On the eve of the vote, some Spanish newspapers decried the dirty nature of the campaign.

Mas flatly denied as "libel and slander" allegations published in conservative daily El Mundo from a supposed draft police report saying he had a Swiss bank account beyond the reach of the taxman.

El Pais condemned Rajoy's government for leaving the allegations ambiguous in the public's mind by failing to clearly deny or clarify the nature of the accusations.

"You can't throw the stone and then hide your hand," the paper said in an editorial headlined "Playing dirty".


Date created : 2012-11-24


    Exit polls show mixed results for Spanish PM Rajoy

    Read more


    Spanish regional elections to test PM Rajoy

    Read more


    Independence row adds spice to Barcelona, Madrid clash

    Read more