The controversial independence referendum in the Spanish region of Catalonia has been called off by the region’s President Artus Mas.
The non-binding vote was due to be held on the 9th November about the ‘political future of Catalonia’. Last month, the Catalan Parliament voted overwhelmingly by 106-28 in favour of a referendum in one of Spain’s richest and most highly industrialised regions.
The Scottish-style referendum was declared ‘illegal’ by the Spanish government in Madrid and the Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz said “This referendum will not be held because it is unconstitutional.”
The decision to cancel the referendum, known locally as a ‘consultation’ was taken by the Regional Government after Spain’s constitutional court decided unanimously in September to hear the case of the central government. This ruling automatically suspended the referendum until the argument against by Spain’s central government is heard; a process which could take years.
Initially the pro-independence group of political parties had decided to press ahead with the vote in the wake of this ruling. However, during a meeting on Monday of pro-referendum parties the plans were put on hold.
It is understood that Mr Mas will announce an alternative proposal today (Tuesday) in a press conference.
A poll on October 5th showed only 23 per cent of Catalans supported the idea of forging ahead with the referendum in light of the court ruling, with 45 per cent wanting the regional authorities to comply with the constitutional court.
Catalans were encouraged in their bid for independence by the Scottish referendum last month, even though the result was a victory for the NO campaign. But the Scottish vote was agreed by both the Scottish National Party and the British government, something the people of Catalonia may want to secure for themselves with their governments to avoid any legal wrangling after a plebiscite has taken place.
The decision by Spain’s central government to press ahead with its opposition to the referendum could backfire in the long run, however.
Mr Mas’s conservative coalition in the Catalan Parliament (CiU) is backed up by the left wing Catalan Republican Left (ERC) who have urged him to defy the court order and press ahead with the vote.
In a statement after the news had broken the ERC said:
“There is only one path: that parliament make an immediate declaration of independence.”
Previously Mr Mas has hinted that actions by central government to block the vote could lead him to call regional elections which would themselves act as a referendum.
Polls show that should this append it will be the ERC who stand to make the most gains, leaving Madrid facing a much more fierce opposition in Catalonia; one completely set on Independence for the region.