Catalan police warned Wednesday that public disorder may erupt as Spain orders the authorities to prevent public buildings from being used as polling stations and stop the region holding a referendum on independence.

The Catalan government has vowed to press ahead with Sunday’s plebiscite in the wealthy northeastern region despite a crackdown by Madrid which wants to prevent a vote deemed unconstitutional by the courts.

The showdown is one of Spain’s biggest political crises since the end of the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco four decades ago and the referendum has deeply divided Catalonia, which is home to about 7.5 million people and accounts for about a fifth of the country’s economy

The Superior Court of Catalonia on Wednesday ordered police to prevent the use of public buildings or places “for the preparation and organisation” of the vote. The order applies to Spain’s national police and the Guardia civil police force, as well as Catalonia’s regional police force, the Mossos d’Esquadra.

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