May 10, 2019 / 2:07 PM / 12 days ago

More Catalans oppose independence than support it for first time since referendum - poll

MADRID (Reuters) - More Catalans oppose independence from Spain than support it, a poll showed on Friday - the first such result since before October 2017 when the region narrowly voted in favour of secession in a referendum that national authorities banned.

FILE PHOTO: People take part in a rally of Catalan separatist organisations to protest at the trial of Catalan leaders and call for self-determination rights, in Madrid, Spain, March 16, 2019. REUTERS/Juan Medina/File Photo

The poll, by the state-run Centre for Sociological Studies, was taken between April 30 and May 6.

Spain held a national election on April 28, in which Catalonia’s continuing independence drive and the consequences of the political crisis triggered by the referendum were central campaign themes for all the major parties.

Twelve Catalan leaders arrested after the plebiscite are standing trial for sedition and remain in prison.

The poll showed 48.6% of Catalans were against independence while 47.2% supported separation from Spain. Its margin of error was put at 3.1 percentage points.

While the independence issue has long divided the region as well as the nation, all similar polls since June 2017 had shown a majority in favour of secession.

By contrast, in national elections a majority of Catalans has generally favoured pro-union parties, and in last month’s ballot independence parties won less than 40% of the regional vote.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has ruled out any rerun of the independence referendum but he has said he is open to dialogue with the separatists and, with his Socialist party holding a minority in parliament, may still need support from the Catalan secessionist camp to form a viable government.

The region produces around a fifth of Spain’s economic output, but the push for independence has prompted thousands of companies to relocate their headquarters elsewhere.

Fallout from the damaging political rift with Madrid has also persuaded some secession-minded Catalan politicians to tone down their separatist rhetoric.

Reporting by Belen Carreño; Writing by Paul Day; editing by John Stonestreet

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