referendum row

Catalan premier to sit out congressional debate on status vote petition

Mas's official spokesman and the agriculture commissioner will represent regional government

Catalan regional premier Artur Mas, as he arrives for his weekly cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
Catalan regional premier Artur Mas, as he arrives for his weekly cabinet meeting on Tuesday.Toni Garriga (EFE)

Catalan premier Artur Mas will not appear in Congress on April 8 when deputies are scheduled to vote on a petition by the regional parliament asking for the transfer of powers to local lawmakers so that they can hold a status referendum in November, a spokesman said Tuesday.

Instead, the Catalan regional government will be represented by Mas's official spokesman, Francesc Homs, and agriculture commissioner Josep María Pelegrí.

Mas’s Catalan nationalist CiU bloc had weeks ago ruled out that the premier would take part in the national debate. But on Tuesday it was confirmed that he would not even be present in the gallery reserved for invited guests.

At a news conference, spokesman Homs explained that it was decided that Mas should not be “the standing attraction” that day, and that leadership duties should be shared by other CiU members.

But some Catalan nationalist politicians have said they did not want Mas to leave Congress humiliated after the vote. Such was the case in 2005 when then-Basque regional premier Juan José Ibarretxe showed up in Congress to defend his sovereignty plan, which was rejected by 313 votes against to 29 in favor.

In January, the Catalan regional parliament voted to ask Congress to grant it enabling powers to call a referendum whereby residents in the northeast region will be able to decide whether they prefer independence over remaining an integral part of Spain.

National lawmakers scheduled the debate for next month, despite Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s insistence that the vote would not be held.

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