Spanish lawmakers reject Catalan independence referendum

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Madrid (AFP)

Spanish lawmakers on Thursday as expected threw out a Catalan bid to hold an independence referendum which a court had already ruled illegal.

Pro-separatist regional president Carles Puigdemont presented a bill calling on Madrid to "respect" the wealthy northeastern region's attempt to hold a vote in October.

But 250 out of 350 lawmakers, led by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's conservatives and backed by the main opposition Socialists and centrist Ciudadanos, voted down the move.

Regionalist and pro-independence parties as well as the far-left Podemos group cast 92 votes in favour of a referendum.

Backed by a majority of pro-separatists in the Catalan regional assembly, Puigdemont wants to hold a referendum asking voters if they want their region, population 7.5 million, to be an independent republic.

Madrid has rejected the move as unconstitutional.

Catalans appear divided on the issue, with 48.5 percent against and 44.3 percent in favour according to latest polls, although some three-quarters back holding a referendum.