Defiant Catalonia leader Artur Mas calls early election

Catalan President Artur Mas Image copyright AFP
Image caption President Artur Mas is involved in a legal battle with the Madrid government

Catalan President Artur Mas has called early regional elections for 27 September - a key test of support for independence in Catalonia.

The region is among Spain's wealthiest, accounting for one-fifth of national economic output.

The elections - Catalonia's third since 2010 - had been expected in 2016.

A symbolic vote on independence - called a "consultation" - was held in Catalonia on 9 November, despite strong opposition from the Madrid government.

In the non-binding poll more than 80% backed independence, Catalan officials said. However, turnout was little more than 40%.

Madrid says any referendum on independence would be unconstitutional.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The Catalan vote on independence in November was highly controversial - and inconclusive

The timing of the new vote may raise tensions over Catalan separatism again, as Spain is gearing up for a general election, expected in November.

Mr Mas's pro-independence CiU coalition has failed to agree on a joint candidate list with the second-biggest party, the similarly separatist ERC.

But they say that before the vote they will present a common roadmap towards independence from Spain. The region already has a high degree of autonomy.

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