BID FOR INDEPENDENCE

Catalan government vows to push on with battle to hold referendum

“Nothing changed yesterday,” says spokesperson, announcing start of “legal initiatives”

A group of protestors is removed from Congress on Tuesday.(atlas)

The Catalan government announced on Tuesday that it would begin “legal, political and institutional initiatives” in response to the Constitutional Court’s decision to suspend a planned referendum on independence for the northeastern Spanish region.

The suspension on Monday came after the central government filed an appeal with the court against the referendum, which had been convened on Saturday by Catalan premier Artur Mas for November 9. By admitting the appeal for consideration, the court automatically ordered the suspension of the vote, as well as all campaigning on the issue, pending the outcome of its ruling.

The Catalan government has now suspended its referendum campaign, but said on Tuesday that it was only doing so on a “precautionary” and “temporary” basis, as it is hoping that the Constitutional Court will rule on the vote “in the next few days.”

What would generate disillusion is if we said the process was over” Catalan government spokesman Francesc Homs

After its weekly meeting on Tuesday, the Catalonia regional government said that it would be requesting an end to the suspension and the withdrawal of the appeal. “Nothing changed yesterday and the determination of the government is to push forward, and we will be doing things in accordance with our commitments,” said Catalan government spokesperson Francesc Homs.

He also denied that the suspension of the campaign had left citizens disillusioned. “What would generate disillusion is if the government came out and said the process was over,” he said. “That is not what we have said.”

The Catalan government – also known as the Generalitat – is not throwing in the towel in its legal battle, and will file arguments in its defense with the Constitutional Court in an effort to ensure the November 9 vote goes ahead. Homs explained on Tuesday that he hoped these contestations would be tackled with the same “supersonic” speed with which, in his opinion, the Constitutional Court had accepted the government’s appeal.

The Generalitat began its campaign on Saturday just minutes after Mas signed the decree setting the November 9 date for the referendum vote. The slogan “9-N: you decide” appeared in TV, radio and press adverts, as well as on a webpage run by the Catalan government.

While the official campaign has been withdrawn by the government, Homs explained that the message would be “spread by whoever wants to do so, but, as a precaution, we can’t put public employees or private citizens in a bind.” The spokesperson was referring to the risk that anyone campaigning on the issue of the referendum could lose their job or be accused of an offense of disobedience.

Protest at Congress

Meanwhile, in Madrid a dozen or so protestors from the youth wing of the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) tried to stage a demonstration against the suspension of the campaign outside Congress on Tuesday. Carrying signs that looked like large ballot boxes, and slogans reading “No one can suspend democracy,” the group was stopped by police officers as they approached the steps to Congress on San Jerónimo street.

A spokesperson from the ERC youth group, Gerard Gómez del Moral, said they had traveled to Madrid to protest against the government’s curtailing of “freedom of expression.” Gómez del Moral described Spain as a “prison for the people, which acts aggressively against peaceful actions and defenders of democracy.”