Catalonia to defy Madrid over independence vote

Trevor Jackson
September 7, 2017

The details of the referendum, which would pose the question "Do you want Catalonia to be an independent republic?" to all Spanish citizens living in Catalonia, were revealed amid a tense atmosphere in the 135-seat regional parliament. Eleven lawmakers abstained from voting, but 52 opposition members of parliament walked out in protest.

Catalonia's president Carles Puigdemont fired back, calling the Spanish government a "threatocracy" and saying her remarks were an "insult to all Catalans, the majority of whom have legitimate aspirations".

Pro-separatist lawmakers, who control the regional assembly, are expected to pass the referendum bill later on Wednesday with little debate, ignoring a ruling by the Constitutional Court that it would be unconstitutional. The source asked not to be named in line with internal protocols.

The Spanish Prime Minister requested the Constitutional Court to recognize the discussions by Catalan lawmakers the law on a referendum illegal.

Soraya Saenz de Santamaria says there were severe flaws in the parliamentary procedures, adding that the Constitutional Court has previously ruled on the illegality of any step taken toward a referendum on Catalan secession.

The Spanish government is trying to strike a delicate balance between offsetting the secessionist defiance and staying away from more dramatic measures that would further inflame anti-Spanish sentiments, such as suspending Catalonia's autonomous powers or declaring a state of emergency that would bring the army into the mix.

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The vote is not recognized by the Spanish government and most political parties at the national level. The Socialist leader had a scheduled meeting with the conservative prime minister on Thursday.

Catalonia, a region of 7.5 million people with its own language and culture, accounts for about 20 percent of Spain's economic output, and has significant powers over matters such as education, healthcare and welfare.

The push from the wealthy northeastern region to hold an independence vote sets Spain - which is still reeling from jihadists attacks Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, and a nearby seaside resort last month that killed 16 people - on course for its deepest political crisis in decades. Central authorities have vowed to stop the vote.

"They knew that I was not going to authorize it (the referendum) because I was neither able to, nor did I want to, but they didn't care about that", Rajoy said.

Mas is the highest-ranking among Catalan politicians suspended from office and fined by the country's Supreme Court for organizing a non-binding vote on independence in 2014.

Other reports by TheDailyFarc

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