catalan independence bid

Catalan parliament closes in on ‘fast-track’ independence process

But Madrid will now appeal to Constitutional Court over reform allowing single reading of bills

The Catalan government’s plans to secede from Spain took a step forward on Wednesday after the regional parliament approved reforms to its statutes that will allow laws to be approved after a single reading, meaning legislation required for the holding of the October 1 independence referendum could be fast-tracked with little or no debate.

Catalan Regional Premier Carles Puigdemont on Wednesday.
Catalan Regional Premier Carles Puigdemont on Wednesday.Andreu Dalmau / EFE

The reform was supported by the ruling Junts pel Sí coalition and the radical left CUP, while opposition parties argued the reforms breach the Spanish Constitution.

The reform would allow the pro-independence Junts pel Sí and CUP parties to request draft bills related to the independence process be given a single reading that would not require agreement by all parties for approval. This would effectively prevent the opposition from presenting amendments or exercising control over procedure. The vote on Wednesday was tense, with 72 deputies from Junts pel Sí and CUP voting in favor, and 63 opposition members voting against it.

It is incoherent to defend the rights of deputies and minorities but not the right of self-determination Anna Gabriel of the CUP party

Joan Coscubiela of the left-leaning Catalunya Sí que es Pot party described the reform as an attack “on the essence of parliamentary democracy.” Alejandro Fernández of the Popular Party went further, accusing Catalan regional premier Carles Puigdemont and his supporters of implementing “a lunatic strategy.”

Anna Gabriel of CUP dismissed the criticism, saying: “Can’t you see that your discourse has no credibility, because it is incoherent to defend the rights of deputies and minorities but not the right of self-determination.”

The assumption now is that the fast-track procedure will be used at the session scheduled for September 6 to approve the legislation required to carry out the referendum Puigdemont says will go ahead on October 1, despite the total opposition of the central government in Madrid, which argues that the proposed plebiscite breaches the Spanish Constitution. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has pledged he will not allow the referendum to go ahead.

It remains to be seen whether the new law will be used to approve the so-called transition laws before October that set out the procedures for breaking away from Spain in the event of popular support for independence.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has pledged he will not allow the referendum to go ahead

Wednesday’s plenary session was the last before the summer break, but deputies will return on August 16, rather than the usual date of September 1, allowing time for other initiatives to be debated ahead of the September 6 session.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is expected to lodge an appeal before the Constitutional Court after the Friday Cabinet meeting, which would suspend the law approved on Wednesday for a maximum of five months. That said, Puigdemont believes that nothing can now delay the momentum of the independence referendum, which is set to be approved at the September 6 session in the Catalan regional parliament.

All legislation must be in place in Catalonia by September 15, in time for the electoral campaign in the run-up to the October 1 referendum.

It remains to be seen how the Catalan authorities will respond to Rajoy’s likely appeal to the Constitutional Court. Either the referendum will be called before Madrid appeals against Wednesday’s new law, or Puigdemont goes ahead and approves the referendum by decree, despite the Constitutional Court having suspended the law. Puigdemont told French daily Le Figaro recently that he would not accept such a decision.

English version by Nick Lyne.

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