Things to Watch on Catalonia's Referendum

Catalan bishops call for calm as Spain cracks down on independence vote

Spain is on the brink of a political crisis as Catalan leaders insist on holding an independence vote on October 1 whereas the government in Madrid sees the move unconstitutional and wants to use any means its possesses to prevent the vote.

Acting on a judge's orders, police seized 10 million ballot papers and arrested at least 12 people, mostly Catalan government officials, suspected of coordinating the referendum.

Spain will deploy police reinforcements to Catalonia to help maintain order if an independence referendum pledged by Catalan officials but opposed by the national government goes ahead, officials said Friday.

However, neither the Catalan government nor the Catalan police force will accept the new leadership, according to Catalonia regional government's interior minister, Joaquim Forn.

The dispute over Catalan demands for a referendum has highlighted fault lines in Spain's 1978 constitutional model which affords regions a large to degree of autonomy to run services such as health, education and policing.

The ministry said the Catalan Interior Ministry had been informed.

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Some 2,000 protesters, many waving red and yellow Catalan independence flags, hit the streets of Barcelona on Friday for the third day of demonstrations against the Spanish authorities' crackdown on preparations for a banned Catalonian independence referendum. They occupied a central cloister near the offices of the dean and other university officials.

Members of the Catalan National Assembly, a group of separatist activists, set up a security cordon outside the economy department's headquarters, trapping a Civil Guard squad inside as demonstrators vandalized their vehicles.

Student union representatives are calling for protesters to remain over the weekend to support for the vote.

Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution allows the central government to take control of a regional administration if it poses a threat to the national interest.

The region has about 5.5 million eligible voters, and polls consistently show the region's inhabitants favour a referendum but are roughly evenly divided over independence from Spain.

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