Catalan parliament passes 'illegal' referendum bill

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There will be no minimum turnout requirement to make the result of the referendum binding, Puigdemont said in a recent briefing.

Ten hours into a tense plenary session, Catalan lawmakers are still holding a heated debate on a controversial bill that lays the groundwork for an october 1 referendum on independence from Spain.

Now that it has been approved legislatively, Catalonian President Carles Puigdemont is expected to sign the measure into law either late on Wednesday or early on Thursday.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy filed a complaint with the Constitutional Court about non-compliance with the court rulings by the Catalan parliament, which on Wednesday started discussing the law on a referendum, Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said in a speech broadcast by the 24 Horas television channel Wednesday.

All opposition parties walked out before the vote, but separatists hold the majority of seats and the bill passed.

Caroline Gray, an expert on Spanish independence movements at Britain's Aston University said Madrid could have defused the rising separatist tide had it offered Catalonia a new financing deal a few years ago.

"No one can do away with Spanish democracy", Rajoy added.

Tensions are running high among Catalan lawmakers as the regional parliament made a decision to vote on a bill that lays the ground for a controversial referendum on independence from Spain.

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The vote comes about three weeks after Barcelona and a nearby town were struck by Islamist attacks that killed 16 people and caused the Catalan and Spanish governments to present a brief united front.

But a referendum in defiance of Spain's rule of law, without the blessing of central authorities, has inflamed controversy.

Ines Arrimadas of Ciudadanos, leader of the official opposition in Catalonia, said the "illegal" bill not only lacked worldwide support, but also violated the Catalans' rights.

The return to solid growth has weakened public backing for independence, although polls show that nearly eight out of 10 Catalans want to have the right to vote. The opposition argues that the bill should be first vetted by a legal committee because it clashes with Spain's constitutional laws.

"If Catalonia were to leave Spain, then Barcelona would have the luxury of choosing which League they wished to participate in".

The so-called referendum bill was included at the last minute in the agenda of Wednesday's plenary meeting of the regional parliament, and is likely to be passed by a pro-independence majority later in the day, paving the way to formalize plans for the ballot.

Be very clear that you will not split up Spain, but you are breaking up Catalonia.