Quarter of Catalans want to keep fighting for independence from Spain

Catalans holding independentist flags (Estelada) gather on Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes during celebrations of Catalonia National Day (Diada) in Barcelona on September 11, 2014. Red and yellow flags filled the streets of Barcelona today as Catalan nationalists fired up by Scotland's independence referendum rallied to demand a vote on breaking away from Spain. Demonstrators planned to mass in the late afternoon along two central Barcelona avenues in the shape of a giant letter "V" for vote. AFP PHOTO/ QUIQUE GARCIA

MADRID: Barely a quarter of Catalans want to continue with a plan to claim independence from Spain in the wake of December 21 regional elections, according to a poll published in El Pais newspaper on Monday.

An illegal Catalan independence referendum on October 1 plunged Spain into its worst political crisis in decades. It eased after the sacking of the secessionist Catalan authorities by the Madrid government elicited little resistance.

But uncertainty could return if the pro-independence camp wins in the December 21 vote. Just 24 per cent of those polled by Metroscopia said they would like to continue with the independence process after the elections, whereas 71 per cent said they would prefer politicians to find an agreement based on Catalonia staying part of Spain.

Pro-independence parties may fail to retain an absolute majority of seats in the Catalan parliament in next month’s election, the first part of the poll published on Sunday showed. However, the survey’s margin of error at 2.4 per cent and the fact support was evenly split between the two sides makes reading conclusions from polls difficult.

The telephone poll surveyed 1,800 Catalans between November 20 and November 22. Failure to capture a majority in the regional parliament would be a heavy blow for Catalan separatists who have billed the election as a plebiscite on Madrid’s decision to impose direct rule on the region last month.

The October referendum produced a large majority in favour of independence, but turnout was only 43 per cent because many who opposed the breakaway did not vote. Catalan separatist parties are forecast to win 46 per cent of the vote, down slightly from 47.7 per cent in a previous election in 2015.

Unionist parties combined would account for another 46 per cent of votes, up from less than 40 per cent last time, according to the Metroscopia poll. Turnout for the election, which former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont said on Saturday would be the most important in the region’s history, is predicted to reach a record 80 per cent.