PRESIDENT of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, has announced a referendum to determine whether Catalonia should separate from Spain, sparking outrage in Madrid.
Puigdemont has called for a referendum on October 1 despite not having prior consent from the State. He has followed in the steps of his predecessor, Artur Mas, who was banned from holding public office for two years and fined €36,500 after being found guilty of violating the constitution.
Mas held a vote for independence in November 2014, five days after the constitutional court had ruled it illegal. Alongside 40,000 volunteers, he opened schools for polling and received an 80 per cent majority in favour of sovereignty.
Deputy Prime Minister, Soraya Saenz de Santamaria, has downplayed the announcement as an empty political gesture: “They can announce a referendum as many times as many times as they want, delay it as many weeks as they please and hold as many events as they want, but the referendum is not going to take place.”
The Spanish government appears ready to combat the political dissent, and is confident it will be able to prevent the vote from taking place. If necessary, Madrid may chose to invoke article 155 of the constitution, suspending the region´s autonomy and seizing temporary control.
Puigdemont claims Madrid has left him with no other choice. “When they´ve asked us what we Catalans want, we´ve given them multiple proposals” he said. “But they have all – without exception – been thrown out or vigorously cut back.”
Despite having publicly announced the referendum, the Catalonian government remains open to an agreed exit. Puigdemont had expressed a willingness to negotiate during the Madrid conference, May 16, meaning taking his case to Congress is still an option.
On Radio Catalunya he claimed “We´re just asking that people be allowed to vote for a better life.”