Spain’s King Felipe yesterday warned the region of Catalonia to respect the law as separatists threaten to unilaterally declare independence if they win upcoming elections.
Regional president Artur Mas has called elections for 27 September, which he wants to turn into a de facto referendum on independence from Spain.
Announcing the formation of the pro-independence “Junts pel sí” (Together for Yes) alliance earlier this week, Mas said that if the group wins a majority it will press ahead with independence in 18 months – an act that would violate the Spanish constitution.
To form the pact, Mas, who leads the conservative nationalist Democratic Convergence of Catalonia, has had to form an unlikely alliance with the hard-left Catalan Republican Left party. He also dissolved a 37-year union with another conservative party as it was not sufficiently nationalist.
The Times reports that King Felipe yesterday gave a thinly veiled warning in Barcelona, saying: “Abiding by the law is the source of legitimacy and the essential requirement for a peaceful and free democratic coexistence.”
Spain’s central government is firmly opposed to Catalan independence, and has threatened to suspend the region’s government if it attempts to break away. The Spanish constitution does not allow for any region to declare independence, and the only way to resolve the situation within the law would be to approve an amendment – something that would require a referendum across Spain.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy recently said: “There will not be independence in Catalonia. The government is absolutely prepared to make it abide by the law.”
Although some analysts say the wealthy north-eastern region would get a better deal if its tax money were no longer sent to the rest of Spain, any split would inevitably seriously weaken one of the Eurozone’s major economies, potentially creating a new crisis for the embattled euro.
A poll earlier this month found that 44 per cent of Catalans would vote for independence from Spain, compared to 50 per cent against.