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Published: Thursday April 24, 2014 MYT 1:33:48 AM
Updated: Thursday April 24, 2014 MYT 1:35:23 AM

Catalan leader to call independence vote despite Madrid resistance

Catalan President Artur Mas speaks during a meeting of the executives of the Catalan government at Palau de la Generalitat in Barcelona, April 8, 2014. REUTERS/Gustau Nacarino

Catalan President Artur Mas speaks during a meeting of the executives of the Catalan government at Palau de la Generalitat in Barcelona, April 8, 2014. REUTERS/Gustau Nacarino

BARCELONA (Reuters) - Catalan President Artur Mas said on Wednesday he would call a non-binding vote on the region's independence in November to let locals at least express an opinion after Madrid blocked a full referendum.

Spain's parliament this month overwhelmingly rejected the wealthy region's request to hold a plebiscite, arguing it was unconstitutional.

"The consultation will be called, and within a legal framework. The central government may try to annul it. But that doesn't depend on me," Mas told journalists in the region's capital Barcelona.

The northeastern region, which accounts for around a fifth of Spanish economic output and 16 percent of its population, has its own language and a long history of fighting for greater autonomy.

Calls for separation have become a headache for the central government as it fights massive unemployment and the scars of a long economic slump.

Mas said the constitution allowed a non-binding consultation.

"They should at the very least allow the Catalan people to express themselves democratically, according to Catalan law, and we ask that the government doesn't try to block a purely participatory process so we can know the Catalan opinion," he added.

If the vote is also blocked, Mas said he would call an election as a last resort which would be seen as proxy vote on independence.

Opinion polls show that around half of the people in Catalonia support independence from the rest of Spain. Around 80 percent want to at least vote on the matter, Mas said.

(Reporting by Paul Day; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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