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04/12/2016

Spanish government moves against Catalonia’s ‘pseudo vote’

Languages & Culture

Spanish government moves against Catalonia’s ‘pseudo vote’

Kids for independence. Barcelona, 11 September. [Eric Burniche/Flickr]

The Spanish state adviser yesterday (30 October) backed a veto of a watered-down Catalan vote on independence planned for 9 November, making it likely the government will try and have the “consultation of citizens” blocked by the courts.

Spain’s Council of State on Thursday unanimously decided the government should ask the Constitutional Court to declare the vote illegal, a spokeswoman for the consultative body said.

In October, the wealthy northeastern region of Catalonia dropped plans for a non-binding 9 November referendum on independence from Spain, after the court declared such a vote against the constitution.

Catalan leader Arturo Mas instead announced plans for an alternative consultation on the same day, equally non-binding, and open to anyone who wants to cast their ballot. It will be marshalled largely by volunteers.

>> Read: Catalonia to seek alternative to referendum

Although Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and politicians in Catalonia have called for dialogue over the region’s status after the initial referendum plans were abandoned, tensions are still simmering before the 9 November alternative vote.

“We’ve seen, I don’t know what to call it, the intention to hold something similar, a pseudo-vote, which does not meet the norms of a democracy,” Rajoy told a news conference on Thursday.

The prime minister had already threatened to try and have the “consultation of citizens” blocked if it were found to be illegal.

>> Read: Spain moves to block Catalonia’s independence ‘consultation’

Rajoy said cabinet ministers would decide today on the government’s next move, and whether to indeed take matters to the Constitutional Court. It’s unclear how the central government would enforce a block on the consultation if Catalan leaders decide to press ahead, regardless. 

Background

When Spain returned to democracy in the mid-1970s, regions such as Catalonia and the Basque Country saw a vibrant resurgence of their culture and languages that had been crushed during the dictatorship of Francisco Franco.

Catalans speak a language similar to, but distinct from, the Castillian Spanish spoken in the rest of Spain. The region accounts for 15% of Spain's population but 20% of its economy.

With Spain's economy in freefall from the euro zone debt crisis, Catalans complain of paying billions of euros more in taxes than they receive back from Madrid.