Catalan independence bid

Catalan premier accuses central government of “Inquisition” tactics

Mas charges against Popular Party plans to reform Constitutional Court powers Move is part of bid to block plans in northeastern region to secede from Spain

Artur Mas during his meeting in Girona on Tuesday night.
Artur Mas during his meeting in Girona on Tuesday night.Robin Townsend / EFE

The regional premier of Catalonia, Artur Mas, on Tuesday criticized the central government’s urgent plan to reform the laws governing the Constitutional Court to allow it to punish officials who fail to comply with its decisions, in a move aimed at blocking the region’s threats to secede from Spain after upcoming regional elections.

Speaking at a dinner with business leaders in Girona, Mas said the center-right Popular Party (PP) government, which is fiercely opposed to independence for any of Spain’s regions, was “doing away with the rule of law” with its rushed legislation. The urgent nature of the proposed bill means it will bypass normally mandatory reviews by the judiciary, the State Council and the Prosecutor’s Council, and could be passed before the end of the current legislature, which is due to end with this fall’s general election, the date of which is yet to be set.

The legislation, said regional premier Mas, “is like something from the 1930s”

Mas – whose Junts pel Sí coalition, an alliance of pro-sovereignty parties and civic organizations, is casting the September 27 regional elections as a de facto referendum on independence – went on to say that the PP’s plans represented an “alarming lowering of democratic quality,” adding that they included “the music of the Inquisition,” and constituted a “major historic regression.” The legislation, he stated, was “like something from the 1930s,” the decade when Spain found itself immersed in a devastating civil war.

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Mas argued that the measures – which aim to give the Constitutional Court powers to punish authorities and individuals who fail to comply with its decisions, and includes the possibilities of suspending them from their duties and imposing fines of between €3,000 and €30,000 – aimed to give the country’s highest tribunal powers that were not within its remit. “Every day they will come up with initiatives of this type, all of which are completely grotesque,” he concluded.

Mas’s quest for independence for Catalonia has put him in direct confrontation with PP Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who has repeatedly stated that the Spanish government will never allow Catalonia to break away from the rest of the country.

At the upcoming elections, Mas, who is the leader of the Democratic Convergence of Catalonia (CDC) party, is running on the joint Junts pel Sí secessionist bloc ticket, along with the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) and other pro-independence groups and associations.

Mas’s quest for independence for Catalonia has put him in direct confrontation with the prime minister

The aim is for the bloc, whose name translates as “Together for yes,” to win an absolute majority of seats in the regional parliament, which they would then consider gives them a legitimate mandate to move toward independence.

Spain’s Constitutional Court has blocked the Catalan government’s intentions to hold a legally binding referendum on the future of the region.

In November, the regional government sponsored an informal referendum, which saw a lukewarm voter turn-out. About 1.8 million people voted in favor of independence.

English version by Simon Hunter.