regional politics

Catalan assembly approves motion to seek leave to hold self-rule referendum

Three Socialist lawmakers break with party line to vote in favor of proposal “We are not voting on the political future of Catalonia, but the form in which Catalans will decide it”

A view of the Catalan assembly during Thursday's vote.
A view of the Catalan assembly during Thursday's vote.Albert Garcia

The Catalan regional assembly on Thursday approved a motion to ask the national Congress for permission to hold a referendum on the independence of the region from the rest of Spain.

The proposal was approved by members of the ruling center-right nationalist CiU bloc, the Catalan Republic Left (ERC) and the ICV leftist-green group. Three members of the Catalan branch of the main opposition Socialist Party (PSC) broke ranks to vote in favor of the motion, while the center-left Candidature for Popular Unity (CUP) abstained. The conservative Popular Party (PP) and the centrist Citizens party voted against.

In total, the motion was passed with 87 votes in favor, 43 against and with three abstentions in the 135-seat assembly. Regional premier Artur Mas and the PSC leader, Pere Navarro, did not take part in the debate.

We are not voting on the political future of Catalonia, but the form in which Catalans will decide it”

CiU spokesman Jordi Turull said that the regional assembly is not seeking the independence of Catalonia per se, but the right to decide the region’s future within Spain.

“We are not voting on the political future of Catalonia, but the form in which Catalans will decide it,” he said.

Turull denied the independence issue was dividing the people of Catalonia. “Fighting for the right to vote only frustrates those who do not believe in democracy,” he said.

In December of last year, the CiU, the ERC, the ICV and the CUP agreed on the questions that would be asked in a referendum. The first would be: “Do you want Catalonia to be a state?” If respondents answer yes, they will then be asked: "Do you want Catalonia to be an independent state?" They also set the date for the referendum: November 9 of this year.

The PP administration of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has argued that if Catalonia holds a referendum unilaterally, it would be in breach of the Constitution.

The leader of the Catalan branch of the PP, Alicia Sánchez-Camacho, said that independence seekers were bent on “breaking up Spain,” adding that the Rajoy administration would not cave in to “blackmail” or “impositions.”

PSC spokeswoman Maurici Lucena reiterated Socialist Party calls for Spain to move toward a federal system, without the break-up of the country.