Catalonia is preparing for regional elections this weekend that separatists have billed as a proxy vote on secession. As David Pollard reports, the vote could trigger shockwaves that would be felt throughout the rest of Spain, and beyond.
This face could be better known in Catalonia than even its president. Local hero Pep Guardiola coached football superstars Barcelona to win after historic win. He now hopes to triumph as a separatist candidate this weekend. In a local election where a separatist victory would, they say, equate to a mandate for independence. As for the president: he's Catalonia's voice of separatism, Artur Mas. (SOUNDBITE) (English) FORMER PRESIDENT AND CANDIDATE, ARTUR MAS, SAYING: "If we rely on Madrid, we know what the reality will be: unemployment, cuts in healthcare, cuts in education, lack of investment.'' Years of austerity give that message traction across Europe. It's falling on deaf ears in Madrid. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) SPANISH PRIME MINISTER, MARIANO RAJOY, SAYING: "A torn-apart Catalonia will be a ruin for banks, businesses and citizens." Mariano Rajoy's Popular Party could lose almost half its seats in the Catalan parliament. Not a happy thought for the Spanish prime minister ahead of national elections in December. A bigger worry for the markets is: what happens if one fifth of Spain's GDP walks away from the other four fifths. Major banks warn of a threat to financial stability. Spain's central bank chief says Catalonia could be booted out of the euro zone. Peter Dixon of Commerzbank. (SOUNDBITE) (English) GLOBAL FINANCIAL ECONOMIST, COMMERZBANK, PETER DIXON, SAYING: ''If it were to happen, then certainly it will mean a significant political crisis for Spain. I think it would also mean that the rest of the euro zone would have to think very carefully about how it treats Spain, and the impact of what would this mean for the euro zone as a whole.'' Guardiola's not tipped to win his seat. While the separatist alliance could get most seats, it may fall short of an absolute majority. For Catalan independence, a result that might not live up to the resounding home win they were looking for.