Catalonia suspends campaign on independence

Court decision to accept Spanish appeal against referendum has led to its automatic suspension

Balconies are decorated with “estelada” flags, that symbolises Catalonia’s independence, and a banner encouraging people to vote for a referendum in Catalonia, in Barcelona, Spain. Photograph: AP Photo

Balconies are decorated with “estelada” flags, that symbolises Catalonia’s independence, and a banner encouraging people to vote for a referendum in Catalonia, in Barcelona, Spain. Photograph: AP Photo

 

The Catalan regional administration abandoned an institutional campaign encouraging voters to take part in the November 9th non-binding vote and offering information on it. That decision came just hours after the Spanish Constitutional Court had said the referendum should be suspended, on Monday.

The central government of Mariano Rajoy, which has repeatedly deemed the referendum illegal, had appealed to the court. Specifically, the government asked it to rule against a “referendum law” approved by the Catalan parliament and a decree signed on Saturday by the region’s premier, Artur Mas, calling for the vote to take place.

The court’s unanimous decision to accept the government’s appeals meant the automatic suspension of the referendum. The magistrates now have five months to make a definitive ruling on the issue.

The decision by Mr Mas, the figurehead of the referendum project, to call off the pre-referendum campaign suggested that he was obeying the court’s ruling and that the vote itself would not take place. However, his regional administration remained defiant yesterday.

“Some people might be tempted to think that after what happened [on Monday] that there’s not going to be a referendum, but we think just the opposite,” said Francesc Homs, spokesman for the Catalan government.

Abandoned

The current developments are the culmination of months of stalemate between the northeastern region and Madrid. Many Catalans believe their wealthy territory pays too much into the national coffers and complain that the Spanish government interferes in issues such as the use of the Catalan language in schools.

The slated referendum, which would only be consultative, would ask Catalans if they want a state and if that state should be independent.

Surprise

The court, meanwhile, reported that it had moved so fast because of the “constitutional and political transcendence of the questions posed, for Spanish society overall and for Catalan society in particular”.

In response to the regional government’s abandonment of the referendum campaign, Mr Rajoy maintained his constitutionalist line.

“A governor can’t just do whatever he wants,” he said. “He has to follow the law and obey it.”

But despite Mr Mas’s decision to obey the court, there were few signs of tensions slackening in Catalonia yesterday.

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