27th May 2019

Catalonia downgrades independence 'consultation' after court ban

  • Mas says the new vote is in line with the Spanish constitution (Photo:

Catalan leader Artur Mas on Tuesday (14 October) promised to hold a "public consultation" on whether Catalonia should be independent from Spain, after the Constitutional Court thwarted his plans to hold a referendum.

"The vote on 9 November can be considered the preparatory vote before the definitive one," Mas said in a press conference in Barcelona.

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He blamed the government in Madrid for not allowing Catalans to express their opinion and said "the real adversary is the Spanish state."

Mas insisted that his regional government has every right to hold the consultation, which will feature ballot boxes, voting booths, and ballot papers with the same two questions that were considered for the referendum: "Do you want Catalonia to be a state?" and "If so, do you want Catalonia to be an independent state?"

The difference from the formal vote is that no electoral rolls will be used.

Mas said everyone who is a resident of Catalonia over the age of 16 may vote in Catalan government buildings and that 20,000 volunteers are ready to help organise the event.

Opposition parties were quick to criticise him for backing down on the referendum and said the 9 November vote will be nothing more than a "big survey" without any "democratic or legal relevance."

“The referendum process is over, it’s no longer alive. The only thing Mr Mas has done is fool people," said Alicia Sanchez Camacho, leader of the Catalan Popular Party, during a press conference in Madrid.

Albert Rivera, leader of Catalan minority party Ciudadanos said Mas’ press briefing was “ridiculous” and said his party will not take part "in this sort of fictional consultation”.

On Twitter, the hashtags "MasGameOver" and "Estado Espaniol" ("Spanish state") were trending on Tuesday among Spanish users.

Meanwhile, the speaker of the Spanish lower house, Jesus Posada, said there is nothing illegal about Mas’ "informal survey", but noted that the use of ballot boxes or other paraphenelia does not give the vote any legitimacy.

For his part, Steven Blockmans from the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS), a Brussels-based think tank, told this website that Mas' public consultation is a "face-saving exercise".

"He is trapped by the wish not to do something unconstitutional and to antagonise Madrid unnecessarily. He is also following opinion polls that show that 45 percent of Catalans reject the idea of going against the Spanish constitution”.

Mas has also considered holding snap regional elections as an alternative plebiscite on independence.

But Blockmans added he is unlikely to do it because recent events harmed his popularity.

The CEPS analysis criticised Madrid for adopting a "general stance of denial" against the Catalan independence movement, which attracts millions of people in peaceful street rallies.

"This is not the kind of democratic dialogue normally accompanying devolution and constitutional reforms, like we have seen in other member states," Blockmans said, in reference to the UK, where a referendum on the independence of Scotland failed but led to more devolution of powers from London.

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