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Madrid vows crackdown on 'illegal' Catalonia referendum

People with the estelada, or independence flags, shout slogans on top of parked tractors during a protest by farmers in Barcelona on Friday as authorities in Catalonia aim to ensure that a disputed referendum on independence from Spain will take place peacefully on Sunday PICTURE: Francisco Seco/AP

THERE will not be a referendum on Catalonia's independence on Sunday, the cabinet spokesman for Spain's government said as the vice-president of the region predicted the majority of eligible voters would turn out.

Madrid's culture minister Inigo Mendez de Vigo accuses the secessionist coalition ruling the northeastern region of bending the laws to go ahead with a vote regardless of warnings from courts and a suspension by the country's Constitutional Court earlier this month.

Catalan authorities say they will declare independence within 48 hours after announcing the vote's results if the yes side wins.

The Spanish government has fought the referendum with a myriad of legal actions criticised by many in Catalonia.

"The government has a constitutional mandate to enforce the laws maintaining civic order," Mr Mendez de Vigo said on Friday during a regular weekly press briefing.

"Nobody is above the laws and whoever violates them will face consequences."

However, Catalonia's vice-president said more than six out of 10 voters are expected to take part in the poll despite the crackdown from Madrid.

Oriol Junqueras said Catalan citizens will be able to vote "even if somebody takes voting stations by assault and tries to avoid something as natural as placing a voting slip in a ballot".

Spain's Constitution says only the nation's government can call a referendum on sovereignty.

Police forces acting on judges' orders have seized ballots and arrested regional officials in the crackdown.

Mr Junqueras said an internal poll showed more than 60% of the 5.3 million eligible voters plan to cast ballots.

He displayed a prototype of the plastic ballot boxes planned for more than 2,300 voting stations.

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