MADRID.— Catalan authorities activated their self-proclaimed sovereignty process, in which they intend to hold a unilateral referendum on the succession of the autonomous community from the rest of Spain on October 1.
In what many consider an institutional crisis of unpredictable consequences, the Catalan Parliament - with a pro-independence majority - approved the so-called Referendum Law on September 6, which establishes the legal framework to hold the controversial vote.
Despite the flat refusal of the government of Mariano Rajoy and the Spanish Constitutional Court (TC) ruling the referendum illegal, the law was passed with 72 votes in favor from the Juntos por el Sí (Together for Yes) coalition, and the anti-capitalist Popular Unity Candidacy party (CUP); 11 abstentions and the absence of a large part of the opposition, who denounced the illegality of the vote.
For the Juntos por el Sí coalition - including the parties Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (Republican Left of Catalonia) and the center-right Partit Demòcrata Europeu Català (Catalan Democratic Party) - the new law legitimizes a vote on a split from Spain, based on the principle of self-determination.
After the tense, marathon session of the Catalan legislative chamber, the President of the Generalitat de Catalunya (Catalan executive), Carles Puigdemont, signed the decree convening the secessionist referendum.
Puigdemont stated that he would defend Catalonia’s right to decide to the end, and called on Catalans to massively participate in the vote.
“To deny this right, treating Catalans as subjects in the service of a state, that fabricates threats at the same rate as violations, this is no democracy, it’s something else,” the autonomous leader stressed.
In his view, the rich region of 7.5 million people has the opportunity to become a “democratic, modern, and free” state.
Puigdemont stressed that such a decision is up to the people and not to any Council of Ministers or Constitutional Court, “delegitimized, discredited and politicized to improper levels.”
Rajoy’s administration and the TC deployed their entire arsenal to curb separatist aspirations, which have intensified since 2010.
Back then, the party of the current head of government, the conservative Popular Party (PP) - at that time the main opposition force - urged the Constitutional Court to limit a reform of the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia, which had already been approved by the Spanish parliament and the Catalan population.
On June 28, 2010, the TC, at the request of the PP, annulled several articles of the new Statute of Autonomy, a sort of regional Constitution, which was considered by secessionist parties as an affront to the territory located in Northeast Spain.
In an appearance at the Palace of La Moncloa (official residence of the prime minister), and after appealing all the steps taken by the Generalitat, Rajoy insisted that he will prevent by all possible legal channels the holding of the controversial referendum.
”This consultation will not take place, regardless of the intentions to impose one in a rushed, sloppy, and illegal manner,” the conservative leader stressed, describing Puigdemont’s actions as authoritarian and “antidemocratic.”
The PP leader also stated that he will do everything necessary to prevent breaking the model of coexistence in this Iberian nation.
Rajoy emphasized that the referendum is illegal and consequently not democratic, and asserted that he would calmly and effectively respond to the separatist attempts.
Questioned regarding the serious territorial conflict, the leader of the left-wing electoral alliance Unidos Podemos (United We Can), Pablo Iglesias, called on the Spanish government to moderate the tone of the debate and once again support the holding of an agreed referendum, with guarantees.
The government may be correct in legal terms, but it is irresponsible to hide behind the law to resolve a political problem, the leader of the third strongest parliamentary force in Spain noted.
There are no legal or regulatory solutions capable of resolving Catalonia’s position in Spain, warned Iglesias.
What is required now is good sense and calm but, above all, the recognition that political conflicts are not solved by judges, they have to be resolved politically, he concluded. (PL)