Catalonia calls on 5.3 mln to vote, Madrid vows to stop it

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Posted: Sep. 28, 2017 8:00 am Updated: Sep.

Many protesters carried pro-independence flags and handmade banners, with slogans such as "we want to vote".

The northwest region's separatist government plans to hold a binding referendum Sunday on breaking away from Spain.

"Catalonia is voting on independence whether you like it or not".

'We are concerned that this order and the accompanying rhetoric may heighten tensions and social unrest, ' said David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and Alfred de Zayas, independent expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable global order.

Barcelona is Catalonia's capital.

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A controversial referendum is due to be staged on Sunday even as the Spanish government has deemed the process illegal, with ballot boxes being seized and Prime Minister Mariano declaring that the vote "won't happen".

In Madrid, a Spanish conservative group set up a large, mock ballot box in the centre of the city and urged people to vote whether they want Catalonia to remain part of Spain. The force's loyalty has been torn between the central and regional governments. "Talk means talk. And talk means putting proposals on the table", he said.

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"The Mossos have come to see what we are doing and they've seen we're having a party", said 45-year-old Ferran Taberner who was at the school with his daughter.

"It's no longer about calling for independence".

"At the moment, there is no significant market impact from the tensions, but if the Catalan police and the Spanish police are standing there in front of the polling stations and discussing whether to block the station or not, this will be an issue", said DZ Bank strategist Sebastian Fellechner.

Authorities in Catalonia intend to ensure that a disputed referendum on independence from Spain will take place peacefully Sunday despite a crackdown on the vote by the national government, the region's interior chief said Thursday.

A report by Reporters Without Borders on Thursday said the regional government's drive to impose its side of the story in local, Spanish and global media has "crossed the red lines".

"There isn't a consensus in order to change the Spanish constitution, so this is why the Catalan government acts unilaterally".

Lluis Orriols Galve, a professor of politics at the Carlos III University of Madrid, said the government will have "big difficulties" stopping the referendum.

She said the European Union "is pragmatic and will find a good solution for Catalonia, for Spain and for the European Union".

The Catalan leaders' new overture comes as Spanish authorities are tightening the noose around the referendum.

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