SPAIN’S Constitutional Court has suspended a resolution passed by Cataluña’s regional parliament which called for an independence referendum next year.
Catalan President Carles Puigdemont argued that the region should hold a referendum in September 2017, regardless of whether it received the necessary backing from Spain’s National Government. The Catalan parliament, which has a separatist majority, approved the plan.
The referendum will likely have to wait following an announcement from Spain’s Constitutional Court on Wednesday December 14 that it had suspended the motion.
The National Government also reminded prominent Catalan politicians that they had an duty to control any efforts to disregard the suspension. The Constitutional Court made it clear that anyone who chose to ignore the suspension would experience legal repercussions.
A significant percentage of the Catalan population has rallied for independence for many years but to no avail. Under the leadership of former president Artur Mas, the region previously attempted to organise a referendum, but its efforts were consistently stymied by the Constitutional Court. Eventually the region decided to hold a symbolic referendum in November of 2014. On this occasion, more than 80 per cent of voters cast their ballots in favour of independence, although only about a third of eligible voters actually turned out.
Mas is currently in court facing accusations of civil disobedience and malfeasance, and could potentially be barred from public office for 10 years. This has hardly caused the hunger for independence amongst many Catalans to dissipate, with the Scottish referendum of 2014 and the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union earlier this year likely stoking nationalist sentiments even further.
The Constitutional Court now has five months to decide whether it will implement the suspension permanently or lift it, but at the moment, it seems unlikely that the Court will rethink its stance. In 2014, the Court ruled that no region can singlehandely call forth an independence referendum which will affect the interests of the entire nation.
Many Catalan polticians were quick to express their displeasure with the suspension. The region’s foreign minister Raul Romeva argued that the Spanish judiciary is being politicised in an effort to quash the Catalan government’s bid for independence.
He argued that the Constitutional Court should not be seen as a legitimate judicial body as its judges are nominated by political parties, and the president himself is a former PP member.
The pro-sovereignty speaker of the Catalan parliament, Carme Forcadell, is scheduled to appear before the region’s supreme court on Friday December 16. She has been accused of overstepping her authority by greenlighting a debate about Catalan independence earlier this year.
“[Forcadell] is being prosecuted simply for permitting a legislature to have a debate,” Romeva stated. He went on to argue that the Spanish constitution is being gradually perverted and that this is something which affects all supporters of free speech and constitutional law in Europe.
Undeterred in his mission, Romeva vowed that Catalans would have their vote one way or another. He indicated that the referendum would go ahead next year regardless of whether it received the seal of approval from the National Government.