Sunday

25th Aug 2019

Spain to block referendum, after Catalonia signs decree

Catalans have switched on a giant clock in Barcelona to count the days and hours to a referendum on secession on 9 November after local leader Artur Mas signed the project into law on Saturday (27 September).

But Madrid says it will not go ahead.

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  • Mas signed the decree at a medieval palace in Barcelona on Saturday (Photo: Jordi Bedmar)

Spain’s deputy PM, Soraya Saenz de Santamaria, told press shortly after Mas’ signature ceremony that “this referendum will not take place because it is not constitutional”.

She added: “No government and no single person is above the will of sovereignty, and it is the government’s job to ensure that the law is not broken … No one is above democracy, nor can they decide [which laws] should be obeyed and which should no longer be obeyed”.

The government says that under Spain’s 1978 charter only it has the power to call a vote and that all Spaniards must be involved in the outcome.

Mas says the “consultation’s” non-binding nature means it can go ahead under a local decree.

The Spanish government is to hold an emergency cabinet meeting on Monday and to refer the case to the Constitutional Court, which is expected to take its side.

But Mas on Saturday said: “We cannot fall into the trap of immobility, the trappings of legality, and do nothing at all … Catalonia wants to decide its own political future, peacefully and democratically”.

He referred to Catalonia as a “nation”.

Speaking from Barcelona’s medieval palace, he added that over the past “seven centuries, only external impositions have caused the suspension of self-government, self-government which the will of the Catalan people has always sought to reclaim”.

His office the same day published a list of voting stations and unveiled a €9 million budget for the project.

It said the vote will be guarded by 9,200 local police and that 10,800 ballot boxes will be ready in October.

Polls indicate that most Catalans would say Yes if given the chance.

Forty five percent of them also say they want Mas to abide by the Constitutional Court decision.

But for his part, Oriol Junqueras, the head of Catalonia’s left-wing ERC party, earlier this month called for civil disobedience if the vote does not go ahead. Pedro Sanchez, the head of the left-wing opposition PSD party in Madrid also warned that “after 9 November goes by and there is no vote, we'll have to face emotions in Catalonia: frustration; anger; discouragement; and even resistance."

The Catalan confrontation comes after Scotland voted No to independence on 18 September.

Mas has noted he would have preferred a Yes, but says the way that Britain handled the situation should be a model for Spain.

A majority of Basque people in north-west Spain also want the chance to vote on their status.

Separatists in Belgium and Sardinia have said the developments in Scotland and Spain have given a boost to their hopes for independence as well.

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