January 14, 2015 / 8:24 PM / in 3 years

Spain's Catalonia to hold regional vote September 27 amid independence drive

MADRID (Reuters) - The wealthy Spanish region of Catalonia will hold an election for its regional parliament on September 27, a vote the main parties want to use as a proxy for a referendum on independence opposed by Madrid.

Pro-independence citizens hold up giant letters reading "We are ready, Independence" during the final meeting before the 9N (November 9) consultation, in Barcelona November 7, 2014. REUTERS/Gustau Nacarino

The date, announced at a news conference by the head of the northeastern regional government Artur Mas on Wednesday, is a few months before Spain’s general election and reignites the deeply divisive issue of Catalonia’s status within or without Spain.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has taken a hard line on secessionist ambitions in the region, which accounts for one fifth of Spain’s economic output.

The vote will not include a joint list of candidates from the two main parties in favor of independence — Mas’s Convergencia (Convergence) and Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (The Republican Left of Catalonia).

“We will run with different (candidate) lists but with a common national road map,” Mas said.

The Catalan regional vote had been due no later than 2016.

Catalonia defied Madrid to go ahead with a symbolic secession vote on Nov. 9 and Artur Mas subsequently raised the prospect of early elections to further the independence cause.

A majority of people in Catalonia would vote to stay part of Spain, a poll by the regional government showed in December, the first in years to show a majority against independence but by a very slim margin.

(This story has been refiled to correct paragraph four to remove reference to Catalan national day, which is September 11. Vote is scheduled for September 27)

Reporting By Elisabeth O'Leary; Editing by Robert Hetz

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