Spain's constitutional court suspends break-away law

Catalonia's polarization escalates

Million march for Catalonian independence

Barcelona saw a massive outpouring of support for independence on Monday when Catalans marked their national day, the Diada, with marches and rallies. Organisers said 450,000 people had registered for the event, and Barcelona police later tweeted that 1 million turned up. The law rejected by the constitutional court on Tuesday is set to enter into force on October 2 if the pro-independence front wins the referendum to which the majority of Spanisards are however opposed.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's government is increasing the pressure to prevent an independence referendum, scheduled for October 1, from going ahead. However, Catalan President Carles Puigdemont has said he will press ahead regardless in the name of the new Catalan legality.

"What more do we have to do to make it understood that the people of Catalonia want to vote?" The regional leader is allowed to declare independence from Spain within 48 hours of a "yes" vote, even if it is the result of a low turnout. Spain's constitution bars regions from unilaterally calling an independence referendum.

The Constitutional Court of Spain accepted for review a lawsuit of the country's government against the Catalan law on the transition to independence, approved by the region's parliament on Thursday, El Mundo newspaper reported on Tuesday. A survey at the end of July found that 49.4% of Catalans were against independence and 41.1% supported it. But about 70 percent wanted a referendum, to settle the question once and for all.

Like the referendum held in Britain a year ago on the country's membership in the European Union, the issue in Catalonia pits rural areas - which are more pro-independence - against large urban centres like Barcelona that are more in favour of remaining in Spain.

Catalonia, which is roughly the size of Belgium and accounts for about one-fifth of Spain's economic output, and already has significant powers over matters such as education and healthcare.

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