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Government to file appeal against unofficial Catalan referendum

Move comes in wake of Constitutional Court challenge against original November 9 vote

Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, during a recent press conference.
Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, during a recent press conference. EL PAÍS

As was expected, the Cabinet confirmed on Friday that it would file an appeal at the Constitutional Court against an unofficial referendum planned for November 9 in Catalonia on independence for the northeastern region. The Spanish government has taken this step after on Thursday receiving a report from the State Council advisory body, which unanimously decided that the Catalan government’s planned poll is unconstitutional.

The unofficial poll was announced by Catalan premier Artur Mas after legislation passed by the regional government paving the way for the original November 9 non-binding referendum was appealed by Madrid. As soon as the Constitutional Court accepted the appeal, campaigning and the vote itself had to be suspended. Mas’s response was to announce that Catalans would still be able to vote on November 9, albeit without an official census and without any legislation backing the process.

In its report, the State Council decided that Mas’s back-up plan was even more serious than the original, given that “it lacks constitutional guarantees.”

The State Council decided Mas’s back-up plan was even more serious, given “its lack of constitutional guarantees”

The deputy prime minister, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, announced the plan to appeal the vote after the weekly Cabinet meeting. She justified the move saying that the central government had to “defend the rights of Catalans” against the “damage” being done by the Generalitat, as the Catalan regional government is known. “The right to freedom, also the right of freedom of the press, the right to equality, the right of public employees to have the peace of mind that they will not be breaking the law…,” Santamaría explained, her latter comment in reference to the risk run by anyone helping to organize the vote, given that they may be fall foul of the law.

The government has analyzed the report, which contains statements made by Mas in which he admits that the November 9 vote is being held for Catalans to decide whether or not they want an independent state. The report points out that the powers to call any kind of consultation via referendum about “political decisions of particular importance fall to the king, via a proposal made by the prime minister of the government, and previously authorized by the Congress of Deputies. In no case, as such, does an autonomous region have the power to do so.” The vote, the report concludes, violates the Spanish Constitution.

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