Is independence in Catalonia’s future?

The drive for self-determination doesn’t appear to be fading in Catalonia, the northeast corner of Spain which accounts for one-fifth of Spain’s economic output and one-seventh of its population.

The region’s ruling party, which supports more autonomy from Spain, suffered a setback in this past weekend’s elections, seeing its total seats in the provincial parliament fall from 62 to 50.

Despite their setback, the governing Convergence and Union alliance said Catalans backed the party’s proposal for referendum on independence from Spain.

Indeed, support for another pro-independence group, the Republican Left of Catalonia, surged from 10 seats to 21, Agence France-Presse reported.

As a result, pro-sovereignty parties from right and left have a clear combined majority.

“But the prospects of them joining in battle for a new nation of 7.5 million people remain uncertain,” the wire service added.

Catalonia has long had an independent streak.

While Spain emerged as a unified country in the 15th century, the region retained a measure of autonomy into the 18th century.

Catalonia, with its own distinct culture and language, has long sought greater freedom from Madrid, with many in the region interested in outright independence.

Limited autonomy was granted to the Catalonia in 1913, abolished in 1920 and granted again in 1932.

However, the push toward self-determination came to grinding halt in the late 1930s when Francisco Franco’s rebel national force prevailed in the bloody Spanish Civil War.

Over the next three-and-a-half decades, Franco’s regime sought to eliminate any move toward Federalism, fighting separatism with heavy-handed but sporadic repression, according to an article in Comparative Politics published less than a decade after Franco’s death.

However, even with the most recent vote, the emergence of an independent Catalonia seems far-fetched at present.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has vowed to block any break-up of his country, saying it flouts the national constitution.

At present, Rajoy would appear to have the law on his side. In 2008 a push for a national referendum on the political status of Spain’s Basque region, long a stronghold of separatist sentiment, was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Spain, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

Rajoy is demanding unity as he ponders an EU bailout and struggles to overcome a deep recession, banking crisis, bloated deficit and a 25-percent unemployment rate, according to Agence France-Presse.

Catalan president Artur Mas’s has vowed to stick with his campaign promise to organize a popular consultation on self-determination for Catalonia within four years of a new term.

With a population of 7.5 million people, Catalonia has an economy almost as big as Portugal. But the region is laboring under heavy debt and Catalans think too much of their taxes go to the rest of Spain, according to Reuters.

Adding insult to injury, Catalonia had to ask for Madrid for more than five billion euros this year to help make the debt payments, further stoking resentment, the wire service added.

(Above: Catalonian independence supporters demonstrate in Barcelona in September. Photo credit: The Independent.)

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