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Spain’s Constitutional Court halts call for Catalan independence vote

Tribunal warns regional premier of duty to “prevent or paralyze” any initiative that ignores freeze

In a move that marks the latest salvo in the long-running battle between Madrid and Catalonia over a possible vote on self-rule for the region, Spain’s Constitutional Court on Wednesday annulled two resolutions approved in the Catalan regional parliament in October that would have paved the way for the staging of an independence referendum in 2017.

Catalan premier Carles Puigdemont.
Catalan premier Carles Puigdemont. EFE

Those resolutions were passed despite previous Constitutional Court rulings that the holding of such a vote was unconstitutional.

In its ruling, the Constitutional Court, presided over by Francisco Pérez de los Cobos, also reminded the speaker of the Catalan parliament, Carme Forcadell, Catalan Premier Carles Puigdemont, and members of the region’s Government Council that it was their duty to “prevent or paralyze” any initiative aimed at ignoring or getting around the decision to suspend the referendum.

Failure to do so would make them ultimately responsible and liable to possible legal action, the court said in its ruling.

The Catalan regional parliament now has 20 days to submit a report on the parliamentary actions that gave rise to the October resolutions to hold a referendum on the issue of independence in 2017.

In December 2015, Spain’s Constitutional Court annulled the independence declaration that had been approved by the Catalan parliament a month earlier on November 9.

The court warned politicians they face legal action if they fail to block moves towards an independence referendum

That independence declaration came exactly a year after the Catalan government held an informal, non-binding plebiscite on the issue. The majority of voters backed independence in the poll but turnout was relatively low and due to its nature, people who backed independence were more motivated to participate.

The then-regional premier Artur Mas now faces a 10-year ban from public office after being charged with gross disobedience and perversion of justice for holding the vote.

English version by George Mills.

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