The Spanish region of Catalonia is expected to approve plans for an Oct. 1 referendum on whether to declare independence from Spain, a vote Madrid has vowed to stop.
Catalan lawmakers are due to vote on laws approving the referendum and the legal framework to set up new state institutions such as a tax and social-security agency, a supreme court, and a central bank.
Pro-separatist parties, which control the parliament of the populous northeastern region, are expected to pass the bill, ignoring a ruling by Spain's Constitutional Court that deemed the vote unconstitutional.
With its capital in Barcelona, Catalonia has a strong national identity with its own language and traditions and most Catalans want a referendum to take place to settle the matter once and for all.
There will be no minimum turnout requirement to make the result of the vote binding, regional government head Carles Puigdemont said in a recent briefing with journalists. Ballot boxes, voting papers and an electoral census are at the ready, he said.
Since Monday, Catalan television has been running a 10-second ad to encourage Catalans to vote in the upcoming referendum, which will ask if they want "Catalonia to be an independent country in the form of a republic."
The ad features a railway track with two divergent paths and one message: "You are going to have the capacity to decide, will you give it up?"
Under the terms of the new laws, the Catalan parliament will declare independence within 48 hours of a “yes” vote.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy told a news conference Monday that the government would come down with all the force of the law to ensure no referendum would go ahead on Oct. 1.
“In one day they hope to do away with the constitution and national sovereignty. They will not do it,” he said. “No one can do away with Spanish democracy.”
Spain’s Constitutional Court has already declared illegal a non-binding referendum in 2014, which returned a “yes” vote. Catalan politicians who organized the referendum were also suspended from office by courts.
In addition, El Pais newspaper reported Tuesday a Spanish audit office had demanded the former leader of Catalonia Artur Mas, and other politicians pay a US$6 million fine by Sept. 25 for holding the 2014 vote.
The current head of the Catalan government Carles Puigdemont said the move was the Spanish state “spreading fear” ahead of the planned October referendum.