MADRID — The leader of Spain’s powerful northeastern region of Catalonia has said he plans to propose a government-approved binding independence referendum to secede from Spain by next year.

Catalonia’s separatist leader, Carles Puigdemont, spoke Saturday at a news conference before celebrations of the Catalan National Day holiday, which separatists have used for years to rally hundreds of thousands in support of a new European nation.

Around 1.6 million people voted in favor of secession in a non-binding vote held in 2014. Most of the region’s 5.4 million eligible voters didn’t participate.

Polls show most Catalans support a referendum on independence, but are roughly divided over splitting from Spain.

Acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, his conservative Popular Party and two more of Spain’s main political parties oppose a Catalonian state.

VIAThe Associated Press
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