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Catalonia bid for autonomy from Spain seen quashed

Jessica Morris, special to

The Spanish region of Catalonia is widely expected to receive another setback in its bid for independence, in a parliament vote to be held later on Tuesday.

Catalonia has submitted a petition which seeks the power to hold a referendum on independence from Spain on November 9 this year, according to reports by the Spanish media.

Demonstrators hold a giant banner and Catalan independence flags during a protest at the Pedralbes Palace in Barcelona on October 23, 2013.
Josep Lago | AFP | Getty Images

However analysts said that the petition is likely to be rejected.

"It's likely that more than 80 percent of the Spanish Parliament are going to vote against [this]. There's a remarkable unity between the government and opposition with regard to the Catalan question," Danielle Feldstein, Europe analyst at Maplecroft, told CNBC in a telephone interview.

David Lea, senior analyst for Western Europe at Control Risks, told CNBC, "through sheer logic of numbers … there's no real way it can go through".

Catalonia has already locked horns with the Spanish government overs its ambitions for independence. In March, Spain's constitutional court ruled that Catalonia's plans to hold a referendum were unconstitutional.

This heightened tensions between Catalan President Arthur Mas, who has set his sights on a referendum, and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy who – along with his ruling People's Party (PP) – remain vehemently opposed.

"Right now it's difficult to see a way out of this that doesn't lead to a lot of confrontation between the center and regions, and a lot of instability," Lea told CNBC.

On Tuesday, Rajoy tweeted in Spanish: "The right to decide on the political future belongs to the whole Spanish people, not just part of it."

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While Catalonia's independence bid is motivated by a long history of self-governance, and a distinct cultural identity –the region has its own dialect – it is acutely aware of the important contribution it makes to the Spanish economy.

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Catalonia has an economy on the scale of Portugal or Norway and accounts for 19 percent of Spanish GDP. Its population stands at some 7.5 million.

"I don't think the central government would be fighting so hard if it was a less economically significant region," Lea told CNBC.

Spain's economic troubles have heightened Catalonia's calls for independence. The country suffered five years of recession, and subsequent austerity measures spurred the independence movement in Catalonia.

In addition, the Spanish government's practice of redistributing regional tax revenues to less prosperous regions has fueled discontent in Catalonia.

"Catalans feel that a much larger share of the taxes collected in Catalonia should stay in Catalonia," Feldstein told CNBC.

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