Span­ish court sus­pends Cat­alo­nia in­de­pen­dence vote

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Spain’s Con­sti­tu­tional Court yes­ter­day sus­pended a res­o­lu­tion by Cat­alo­nia’s re­gional par­lia­ment that called a ref­er­en­dum next year on in­de­pen­dence from the rest of the coun­try.

Sep­a­ratists in the wealthy, north­east­ern re­gion have for years tried-in vain-to win ap­proval from Spain’s cen­tral gov­ern­ment to hold an in­de­pen­dence vote like Scot­land’s 2014 ref­er­en­dum on in­de­pen­dence from Bri­tain which re­sulted in a “no” vote. Cata­lan Pres­i­dent Car­les Puigde­mont pledged in the autumn to hold such a ref­er­en­dum in Septem­ber 2017, whether or not the cen­tral gov­ern­ment in Madrid agreed, and the ma­jor­ity-sep­a­ratist, re­gional par­lia­ment sub­se­quently ap­proved his plan.

The court said in a state­ment it “sus­pends... the res­o­lu­tion of Cat­alo­nia’s par­lia­ment that plans a ref­er­en­dum in 2017”. It also warned Cata­lan politi­cians in­volved in the process, such as par­lia­ment speaker Carme For­cadell and Puigde­mont, that they had a duty to “stop or par­a­lyze” any move to ig­nore or dodge the sus­pen­sion, or face “po­ten­tial li­a­bil­i­ties, in­clud­ing at a pe­nal level”.

Cat­alo­nia’s for­mer pres­i­dent Ar­tur Mas had al­ready tried to hold such a ref­er­en­dum, but it was banned by the Con­sti­tu­tional Court so he held a sym­bolic, non-bind­ing in­de­pen­dence vote in­stead in Novem­ber 2014. More than 80 per­cent cast their bal­lot in fa­vor of in­de­pen­dence thenalthough just 2.3 mil­lion peo­ple out of a to­tal of 6.3 mil­lion el­i­gi­ble vot­ers took part.

But Mas is now due to stand trial for stag­ing the vote on charges of se­ri­ous dis­obe­di­ence and malfea­sance, and risks a 10year ban on hold­ing pub­lic of­fice. In this lat­est at­tempt, the Con­sti­tu­tional Court has five months to de­cide whether to im­ple­ment the sus­pen­sion for good, or lift it.

But it is highly un­likely to al­low the vote to go ahead, given that it ruled in 2014 that, un­der the con­sti­tu­tion, no re­gion can uni­lat­er­ally call an in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum that will af­fect the en­tire coun­try. Cata­lans have nur­tured a sep­a­rate iden­tity for cen­turies, with their own lan­guage and cus­toms.

Their long-stand­ing de­mands for greater au­ton­omy have been ex­ac­er­bated by Spain’s re­cent eco­nomic down­turn, leav­ing many re­sent­ing the amount of taxes they pay to the cen­tral gov­ern­ment in Madrid to sub­si­dies poorer re­gions. Calls for out­right in­de­pen­dence have in­creased in re­cent years, and polls show Cat­alo­nia, which ac­counts for al­most a fifth of Span­ish eco­nomic out­put, is roughly di­vided in half over split­ting from Spain. — AFP

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