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Catalan premier defiant in wake of Constitutional Court ruling

Artur Mas says decision does not annul the will of the people in the northeastern region

Acting regional premier Artur Mas during the Cadena SER interview.
Acting regional premier Artur Mas during the Cadena SER interview.Alejandro García (EFE)

Yesterday’s decision by the Constitutional Court to annul the independence declaration text approved by Catalonia’s regional parliament “is legally clear, but politically it cannot annul the will of nearly half of the Catalan people.” That is according to acting regional premier Artur Mas, the man who in recent years has been the driving force behind the ongoing independence bid in the northeastern Spanish region.

The government can’t act via lawsuits and appeals in place of taking the routes of pacts and negotiation” Acting regional premier Artur Mas

Speaking on Thursday morning on the Cadena SER radio network, Mas accused the central government in Madrid – which is fiercely opposed to independence for Catalonia, or a referendum on the region’s future – of failing to accept any kind of dialogue. “[The government] has to stop responding via the courts and start doing so on a political level,” he said, in reference to the government appeal that led to the court’s ruling on Wednesday. “They can’t act via lawsuits and appeals in place of taking the routes of pacts and negotiation.”

The Junts pel Sí (Together for Yes) politician went on to say that he was not trying to act within legal gray areas with his independence declaration, which, among other things, called for Constitutional Court rulings to be disregarded, as well as the creation of a new tax office and social security system. “If eventually a Catalan state could be built, we need to have it ready,” he said. “The operational point, i.e. putting it into action, will arrive when there is a juridical disconnection between Catalonia and Spain.”

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Mas was able to pass the independence declaration text through the Catalan parliament with the support of extreme left-wing party CUP. Between them, the two parties secured a majority at recent regional elections – which the two victors had positioned as a de facto vote on independence – but failed to garner more than 50% of the popular vote at the polls. What’s more, CUP is unwilling to reinstate Mas as regional government head, hence his current role as acting premier.

With this in mind, the Catalan premier said he was aware that he did not have a sufficient majority to legally begin an independence process. “Having not reached 50%, we need to move on to a referendum,” he said. “The Constitutional Court can annul a declaration by the Catalan parliament, but it cannot change the opinion of nearly half of the Catalan people.”

Is there a solution for the Catalan situation that does not involve independence? Mas said that there was, but only when the majority of the people can voice their opinion. “For that, we need to have a referendum,” he told Cadena SER. “Seventy percent of the Catalan parliament wants to have a referendum and there has been a complete lack of sensitivity on the part of the state, they have completely ignored the situation.”

English version by Simon Hunter.

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