Last-minute preparations have been taking place in Catalonia in readiness for a high turnout in Sunday’s informal referendum on a breakaway from Spain.
The ballot asks people whether they would like a vote on self-determination, and if so, whether they would like an independent Catalonia.
Outside the Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona nationalists have been canvassing.
“We are trying to convince doubtful voters that they should go and vote. Whether they vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’, doesn’t matter. We want Sunday to be a historic day. We want people to be happy and to vote without fear,” said Ignasi Masip, spokesman for the Catalan National Assembly (ANC).
Pro-nationalist sentiment is strong.
But the Citizens’ Party, strongly opposed to independence, has accused the Catalan president of trying to make people believe it was a real vote.
“Cardboard boxes and ballot papers do not necessarily mean democracy. In this case, they are trying to simulate democracy. So, I am inviting Artur Mas to call for elections if he really wants people to vote,” said the Citizens’ Party leader Albert Rivera.
Catalan authorities opted to hold the symbolic poll after plans for a formal referendum were blocked by Spain’s Constitutional Court.
The prime minister has called for renewed dialogue and a “return to sanity”.
“National sovereignty will be safe as long as I am prime minister and no one will break Spain’s unity as long as I am prime minister,” Mariano Rajoy told supporters.
Scuffles broke out on Saturday in Barcelona’s St James’ (Sant Jaume) Square between rival supporters of independence and Spanish unity.
Amid such passions, Madrid continues to argue the vote carries no weight, while Catalan nationalists insist it cannot be ignored.
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