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Podemos: Catalan independence vote would be “legitimate mobilization”

Leader Pablo Iglesias says unilateral plebiscite planned for September could not be binding

The leader of Spain’s third political force, anti-austerity party Podemos, says he supports the Catalan regional government’s intention to unilaterally hold an independence vote later this year, describing it as “legitimate,” adding the proviso that the poll would not be binding.

Pablo Iglesias attends a speech on Wednesday given by Catalan regional premier Carles Puigdemont.
Pablo Iglesias attends a speech on Wednesday given by Catalan regional premier Carles Puigdemont.

Speaking on Friday at the end of a week during which EL PAÍS published details from a secret document prepared by the Catalan regional government outlining its plans to trigger independence if its plans to hold a plebiscite on sovereignty in late September for the northeastern region are blocked by the government, Podemos’s leader, Pablo Iglesias told reporters he supported a “legal” referendum, one backed by Spain’s political parties and that would be recognized internationally, but that he was not opposed to the Catalan regional government, the Generalitat, holding its announced referendum.

Iglesias also issued a warning to the Socialist (PSOE) leader Pedro Sánchez that any deal to unseat the ruling Popular Party (PP) would have to include the right of Catalonia to hold an independence referendum.

Podemos supports a “pluri-national” Spain with different solutions for regions with strong nationalist identities

Unlike the Socialists, who back Spain’s Constitutional Court ruling that as things stand any referendum in Catalonia is illegal, Podemos is taking a halfway approach: the planned plebiscite would not be binding, and instead a way of “mobilizing” the Catalan electorate.

“Political mobilization is always legitimate,” said Iglesias, adding that he supported calls for the Catalan regional premier, Carles Puigdemont, to appear before the Spanish Congress to debate Catalonia’s place within Spain.

Podemos’s rank and file is currently debating the party’s position on a referendum in Catalonia and will vote on June 9 for one of three options: to reject any such vote outright, which would leave it on the margins; recognize a referendum as “mobilization” of the Catalan electorate, the position favored by Podemos’s leadership; or to see the vote as binding, in line with the Catalan regional government.

Spain's Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido has warned that the Spanish government will take all steps necessary to stop a planned independence vote in Catalonia.
Spain's Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido has warned that the Spanish government will take all steps necessary to stop a planned independence vote in Catalonia. EFE

Iglesias warned that the PP was prepared to use force to prevent a unilateral referendum: “They are capable of anything and this wouldn’t be the first time.” Podemos’s leader supports a legal referendum asking Catalans about their legal status with the rest of Spain, “with every option on the table,” including whether Catalonia should be an independent state. That said, the party’s leadership prefers the inclusion in any referendum on sovereignty to include the option of “a different constitutional position that recognizes Catalonia as a nation.” Podemos says it supports a “pluri-national” model for Spain with different solutions for Catalonia, the Basque Country and Galicia, regions with the strongest nationalist identity.

English version by Nick Lyne.

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