REFERENDUM ROW

86 percent of Congress votes down Catalonia referendum request

Rare show of unity as national deputies strike down Catalan demand for transfer of powers

PP, Socialists and UPyD agree Constitution does not give region right to hold status vote

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy addresses Congress during the debate on giving the Catalan parliament powers to organize an independence vote. / J. J. GUILLÉN (EFE)

As expected, an overwhelming majority of Spain's Congress voted down a request from the Catalan parliament to transfer powers that would allow it to organize a referendum on independence for the region on November 9.

Eighty-six percent of national lawmakers said no to the Catalan nationalists’ demands on Tuesday, agreeing that the Spanish Constitution did not give the region the right to hold such a vote. The bill was rejected 299 to 47, with one abstention.

The vote constituted a rare display of political unity by the ruling PP, the Socialist Party, Union, Progress and Democracy (UPyD), the Navarrese People's Union (UPN) and Foro Asturias, which together hold 301 seats in Congress. The yes votes were cast by nationalist parties from Catalonia and the Basque Country, chiefly the CiU bloc, which governs Catalonia; the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV); the ERC Catalan Republican Left; and the Catalan leftist-green ICV.

The seven-hour debate only underscored the lack of common ground

The seven-hour debate prior to the vote only served to underscore the lack of common ground over the issue. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said that while sovereignty lies with the Spanish people, making a regional referendum constitutionally impossible, Catalan nationalists are free to lobby for a change to the Constitution. Opposition leader Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, a Socialist, also rejected the notion of a regional poll and instead offered a new “federal state model” that would give greater powers to the regions.

But Catalan nationalist parties are dismissing both options and vowing to carry on with their plans through other channels. One option under consideration is for Catalonia’s legislative assembly to pass its own law allowing regional referendums; an extreme possibility would be an outright declaration of independence.

“We will not desist, we will promote other ways,” said Catalan members of Congress.

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