October 31, 2014 / 12:32 PM / in 3 years

Spain says will seek to block watered-down Catalan vote on independence

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain will seek to block in the courts a watered-down version of a Catalan vote on independence planned for Nov. 9 in the same way it stopped a non-binding referendum, Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said on Friday.

People wave their "Esteladas" (Catalonian separatist flag) flags during a Catalan pro-independence demonstration at Catalunya square in Barcelona October 19, 2014. REUTERS/Albert Gea

Tensions have risen between Spain’s central government and Catalonia as Madrid blocks all attempts by the northeastern region to vote on its future. Madrid argues such a ballot would violate the constitution because it would allow a percentage of Spaniards to vote on a matter affecting the whole country.

Saenz de Santamaria said at a weekly press conference the central government would seek to block the watered-down vote, couched as a ‘consultation of citizens’, to protect the rights of Catalan civil servants so they wouldn’t be forced to break the law.

Catalan head Artur Mas plans to hold the Nov. 9 ballot, marshaled by volunteers, in place of a non-binding referendum on independence declared illegal by the Constitutional Court.

On Thursday, the highest-ranking state adviser backed a veto of the new ‘consultation’ saying it was just as illegal as the original plan.

The government will now ask the Constitutional Court on Friday to rule on the legality of the vote, Saenz de Santamaria said. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy referred this week to the ‘consultation’ as a ‘pseudo vote’.

It is unclear how the central government would enforce a block on the vote if Catalan leaders decide to press ahead.

Reporting By Sonya Dowsett; Editing by Julien Toyer

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