The leader of Spain's separatist-minded Catalonia region has announced that regional elections will be held in September to determine whether a majority of lawmakers favor an independence drive.

Catalonia regional leader Artur Mas said Wednesday elections will be held Sept. 27 after he failed last year to convince the central government in Madrid to allow the region to hold an independence referendum.

Separatists say Catalonia lawmakers could unilaterally declare independence from Spain if they win a majority of supporters in the 135-member regional parliament.

The administration of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy insists the country's Constitution prohibits Catalonia from breaking away on its own.