Catalan leader mulls early vote on break with Spain
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.
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.