BID FOR INDEPENDENCE

Catalan executive to “assume responsibility” over Sunday vote

With two days to go before alternative self-rule referendum, private groups could take over

Catalan spokesman Jordi Turull says government will be responsible for Sunday's vote.
Catalan spokesman Jordi Turull says government will be responsible for Sunday's vote.ALBERTO ESTÉVEZ / EFE

With 48 hours to go before November 9, the date set by the Catalan government for an informal referendum on self-rule, the ballot boxes have already been rolled out and the polling stations readied, said a spokesman from the Generalitat, as the regional authority is known.

“We are committed to leading the consultation. The Generalitat’s governance deparment will watch to ensure that all goes well, and will assume all responsibility. The ballot boxes are in place,” said Jordi Turull, spokesman for the ruling Catalan bloc CiU, on Friday morning.

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This latest statement comes a day after the Spanish government suggested, via its justice minister, that it will no longer attempt to block the vote from taking place as long as the Generalitat does not “promote” it, and instead delegates responsibility on private associations.

Legal tug-of-wars and deliberately ambiguous wording have featured prominently in the months leading up to Sunday’s event, which was described first as a “referendum,” then as a “participatory process.”

Madrid has challenged the vote twice in the Constitutional Court, alleging it violates the law because all Spaniards should be able to vote on an issue that affects the entire nation.

The central government has sought to reduce the vote to an opinion survey organized by civil associations

The central government has sought to reduce the Catalan vote to an unofficial opinion survey organized not by the regional government but by civil associations. On Thursday, Justice Minister Rafael Catalá said that “a [regional] government cannot promote a consultation that goes against the Constitution. But nobody is going to stop citizens from exercising their freedom of expression.”

Meanwhile, the regional administration of Artur Mas has vocally pressed on with its plans, casting it as a case of a nation wanting to express its opinion rather than a government-driven vote for secession.

I have noticed people who are going to vote out of dignity, even if they are not in favor of independence”

Jordi Turull, spokesman for the ruling Catalan bloc CiU

“The Catalan government is obeying a mandate,” said Turull on Friday. “We have democratic legitimacy. There was a clear commitment. On Sunday, we will see the picture that some people said would never be seen. In recent days I have noticed people who are going to vote out of dignity, even if they are not in favor of independence.”

But whether the Catalan government will organize the vote despite the legal suspension or hand it over to private groups at the 11th hour remains a mystery. On Friday, the executive met with representatives of Pacto Nacional por el Derecho a Decidir, an umbrella association of 3,000 groups in favor of a referendum. Its coordinator, Joan Rigol, has told EL PAÍS that they are ready to take over from the Generalitat on Sunday if the latter is forced to bow out due to legal pressure.

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