Cata­lan leader mulls early vote on break with Spain

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

BARCELONA: Sep­a­ratist lead­ers in Cat­alo­nia plan to seek Span­ish govern­ment sup­port for a ref­er­en­dum on the re­gion’s in­de­pen­dence, but a lack of con­sent from Madrid will not stop them from stag­ing the vote, the pres­i­dent of the re­gional govern­ment said Fri­day. Car­les Puigde­mont, Cat­alo­nia’s pro-in­de­pen­dence leader, told The As­so­ci­ated Press in an in­ter­view that he may seek to push for­ward his orig­i­nal plan to hold a bind­ing vote in Septem­ber 2017.

“We would need to have every­thing ready, but it could be ear­lier, of course,” Puigde­mont said, when asked if his govern­ment would has­ten the timetable to pre­vent the ref­er­en­dum from be­com­ing mired in le­gal and po­lit­i­cal pro­ceed­ings. “The wel­fare of Cat­alo­nia is only pos­si­ble out­side of Spain.” Spain’s con­sti­tu­tion doesn’t per­mit a ref­er­en­dum or the se­ces­sion of a re­gion. Ear­lier Fri­day, Cat­alo­nia Par­lia­ment Speaker Carme For­cadell ap­peared be­fore a judge to be ques­tioned about al­low­ing the body’s law­mak­ers to de­bate a se­ces­sion mo­tion this year.

A thou­sand Cata­lan pro-in­de­pen­dence sup­port­ers, in­clud­ing Puigde­mont and hun­dreds of town may­ors, turned out Fri­day to sup­port For­cadell. Wav­ing pro-in­de­pen­dence flags and chant­ing slo­gans, the crowd ac­com­pa­nied her from the lo­cal par­lia­ment to a nearby re­gional court. Other of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing a former pres­i­dent of the re­gion, Ar­tur Mas, have also been ques­tioned or are be­ing called to tes­tify for or­ga­niz­ing votes in and out­side of par­lia­ment about Cat­alo­nia’s fu­ture within Spain.

Span­ish Prime Min­is­ter Mar­i­ano Ra­joy recently put his sec­ond-in-com­mand of his new­ly­formed govern­ment, So­raya Saez de San­ta­maria, in charge of thaw­ing re­la­tions with the Cata­lans, but both sides blames each other for the lack of for­mal ne­go­ti­a­tions. Fri­day’s dis­play of sup­port for For­cadell was aimed, par­tially, at putting pres­sure on Madrid.

A lead­ing fig­ure in the in­de­pen­dence move­ment, For­cadell is ac­cused of dis­obey­ing Spain’s Con­sti­tu­tional Court by recently al­low­ing the re­gional Par­lia­ment to ap­prove a res­o­lu­tion ex­press­ing its in­tent to press ahead with se­ces­sion. “I made clear that no court can stop the par­lia­ment from de­bat­ing in­de­pen­dence or any other is­sue that af­fects the peo­ple of this coun­try,” she said af­ter an­swer­ing a judge’s ques­tions for half an hour.

— AP

BARCELONA: The pres­i­dent of the Cat­alo­nia re­gion’s par­lia­ment, Carme For­cadell, cen­ter left, stands next to pro-in­de­pen­dence may­ors and other elected of­fi­cials as she walks to­wards a court to tes­tify for al­low­ing law­mak­ers to de­bate ear­lier this year on the re­gion’s se­ces­sion from Spain.

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