Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Wednesday sought to play down the new scenario unfolding in Catalonia after regional premier Artur Mas said he was replacing the referendum on self-rule with an alternative vote whose details remain vague.
“I don’t know what it is that’s been announced for November 9 exactly, but there are no criteria other than dialogue and the law,” said Rajoy, whose Popular Party (PP) fiercely opposes independence for the northeastern region.
“If we see there are things [about this other vote] that go against the law, we will have to appeal them,” he added. The PP has already appealed the original referendum before the Constitutional Court, saying it is illegal because it deprives all Spaniards of the right to vote on a matter of national importance.
The court has suspended all referendum-related activities until it decides on the appeal. While Catalan premier Artur Mas tried to push ahead with the original sovereignty vote, he announced earlier this week that it would not be held because it lacked the necessary legal guarantees to be taken seriously and accused Spain of being “a powerful adversary.”
Rajoy celebrated Mas’s decision to backtrack on the referendum as “a triumph for democracy and the law” and said it created an opportunity for a new period. “It opens up a road for dialogue, not for unilateral decisions,” he said in Congress. “We are ready to talk. There is a road that millions of Spaniards want to walk down.”
The PP’s leader in Catalonia, Alicia Sánchez-Camacho, said: “The time has come to open up a new period of reconciliation in Catalan society, to heal the fractures that Mas has created.
“Artur Mas cannot hold any consultation, he has suspended the consultation, he has suspended the operation, but he wants to keep deceiving Catalans,” she added. “The process is no longer alive, and he knows it. This [alternative vote] is not a referendum. Mr Mas wants to give the appearance that he is starting a legal process and is trying to confuse public opinion, pretending that the process is still underway.”