Mayors in the prosperous Spanish region of Catalonia have been given 48 hours to confirm the availability of polling stations for a controversial independence vote as government ministers in Madrid on Thursday finalized a legal challenge to be presented to the Constitutional Court.
Lawmakers in Catalonia's devolved parliament approved the referendum, slated for Oct. 1, after hours of debate in the regional executive late on Wednesday, although anti-independence groups walked out of the chamber when it came to the final vote, allowing the pro-separatist governing coalition to pass it 72-0, with 11 abstentions.
Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and vice-president Oriol Junqueras both signed the referendum legislation, issuing a statement to mayors of Catalonia requesting they confirm the availability of polling stations used in the 2015 regional election and to provide alternatives should that not be possible.
But, while the pro-independence parties were working to set the referendum in motion, Spain's Prime Minister and leader of the right-wing Popular Party is to convene a council of ministers to formalize a legal challenge against a separatist bid that is deemed unconstitutional by the government and the country's highest judicial authority _ the Constitutional Court.
Spain's Council of State, the highest consultative body, has been studying a legal plan of action since early Thursday morning and is expected to present its findings to the government by the afternoon.
The separatist bid in Catalonia has jolted Spanish politics into action following the summer break and has even prompted cooperation between traditional foes with the PP, the Socialist Party (PSOE) and the business-friendly Citizens (Ciudadanos) holding discussions on how to confront the developments in Catalonia, one of Spain's most affluent regions.
Rajoy was due to meet with PSOE leader Pedro Sanchez at the Palace of Moncloa _the PM's official residence _ before he sits down with the council of ministers.