POLITICS

Yet again, Catalonia's secession vote put on hold by top Spanish court

BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 19:  Pro-Independence catalans gather in Catalunya square during a Pro-Independence rally on October 19, 2014 in Barcelona, Spain. President of Catalonia announced to hold an unofficial poll instead of independence referendum on November 9 in an attempt to avoid the suspension imposed by the Constitutional Spanish Court.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 19: Pro-Independence catalans gather in Catalunya square during a Pro-Independence rally on October 19, 2014 in Barcelona, Spain. President of Catalonia announced to hold an unofficial poll instead of independence referendum on November 9 in an attempt to avoid the suspension imposed by the Constitutional Spanish Court. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)  (2014 Getty Images)

Spain's Constitutional Court on Tuesday suspended plans by the northeastern region of Catalonia to hold an informal independence poll Nov. 9 following a legal challenge by the government, which claims the poll is illegal.

Catalan authorities opted to hold an informal poll after plans to stage a proper referendum were also suspended by the court when the government presented a similar challenge last month.

The court's unanimous decision to hear the government's case automatically halts the vote until the court deliberates and makes a decision. That process could take months.

Spain's government, backed by parliament, deems any such poll as anti-constitutional, arguing that only the central government has the power to call such referendums and all Spaniards must be allowed to vote.

The Catalan move is Europe's latest secession attempt following a Scottish independence poll in September on separating from Britain, which resulted in a No vote.

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Opinion surveys indicate most Catalans favor a referendum, but are roughly equally divided over breaking ancient ties with the rest of Spain.

It's not clear if the latest suspension will have much effect.

Catalonia's regional government accuses the central government of restricting Catalans' democratic rights and insisted Tuesday there would still be a vote. It has recruited 40,000 volunteers and hopes to stage the vote in schools and other regionally-run centers.

Catalan authorities agree that only those in favor of independence are likely to try to vote Sunday. They say, however, they will have a result Monday but admit the vote will have little or no meaning beyond that of a symbolic protest.

Secessionist sentiment surged during Spain's economic stagnation and amid discontent at Spain's refusal to give the region more autonomy and fiscal powers.

Catalonia, with about 7.5 million inhabitants and Barcelona as its capital, is one of Spain's wealthiest regions.

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