Spain could be heading for constitutional tension after Catalonian President, Artur Mas, signed a decree on Monday clearing the way for elections on the September 27 – ahead of a Spanish general election due by the end of the year.
Separatist leaders, who include Mas, say if they make up a majority after the poll then they will launch a bid for independence.
“Catalonia is not living under normal conditions", Mas said in a televised address. “When an emphatic and clear majority of a country wishes to exercise its right, peacefully and democratically, but that right is rejected constantly, then the dialogue and negotiation become blocked, along with the pact and the agreement. It means we are facing an exceptional situation that also requires exceptional decisions."
Last November 80 percent of those who voted opted for independence in a referendum that was declared unconstitutional. The turn out was low at 40 percent, but it had huge symbolic value.
Earlier on Monday Spain's Deputy Prime Minister, Soraya Saez de Santamaria, reacted to the Catalan president's plans.
“All I'm asking Mr Mas to do is respect the law and be neutral, because the least he can do is respect the will of the Catalan citizens and the law. So that means that he can only dissolve the Catalan parliament and call for elections. Nothing less and above all nothing more."
But by calling a regional election a year earlier than necessary is being seen as a direct challenge to the national government of Mariana Rajoy in Madrid, and it has forced the issue of Catalan independence to the forefront of the national campaigns.