A Spanish central government official on Thursday warned the wealthy region of Catalonia that it is banned from using public resources to stage a symbolic independence referendum this weekend.
Spain’s Constitutional Court on Tuesday ordered the Catalan government to suspend the planned vote but regional leader Artur Mas has vowed to press ahead with Sunday’s ballot, which will be organised by volunteers without an official electoral roll.
“Efforts to use public resources to stage the consultation or other actions linked to it could go against the court ruling,” the central government’s representative wrote in a letter sent to the Catalan government according to a copy obtained by AFP.
The letter was sent to the Catalan department that will organise the ballot as well as to the regional education department which oversees schools where ballot boxes will be installed.
The central government representative also called on Mas to “avoid violating the decision” by the court.
Mas announced the symbolic vote after the Constitutional Court suspended earlier plans for a non-binding referendum on secession in September.
Catalan officials argue the symbolic vote, which they call a “citizen participation process”, is different from the official referendum because it has a less direct government role and is legal.
Experts have warned that they will be breaking constitutional law by carrying out the symbolic vote. It is not yet clear how the central authorities in Spain will respond if it goes ahead.
“We remind once again that the position of the government of Catalonia has always been to comply with the principle of legality,” the Catalan government said in a statement in response to the letter from the central government representative.
Proud of their distinct language and culture, and accounting for nearly a fifth of Spain’s economy, Catalonia’s 7.5 million inhabitants have increasingly demanded greater autonomy.