Referendum in Catalonia

Catalan deputy premier admits change in “state of play” on independence vote

But Oriol Junqueras stresses “everything is being done” to allow the vote to go ahead

The deputy premier of Catalonia and regional economy minister, Oriol Junqueras, has admitted that police action on Wednesday targeting logistical arrangements for an independence referendum in the region planned for October 1 had “altered the state of play” in the lead-up to the vote.

Catalan regional deputy premier Oriol Junqueras.
Catalan regional deputy premier Oriol Junqueras.LLUIS GENE / AFP

“The circumstances are different today. Half of the team at the [regional] economy department has been arrested. There is a clear will to prevent the work of this department,” Junqueras told Catalan broadcaster TV3 on Thursday, a day after police arrested 14 people, including several top regional government officials, and seized nearly 10 million ballot papers and other material for use in the referendum that has been declared illegal and suspended by the Spanish Constitutional Court.

Catalan government spokesperson Jordi Turull  said relations with Madrid have completely broken down

Junqueras, leader of the pro-independence Catalan Republican Left (ERC) party, said Spain was currently experiencing a crisis of state and asked himself if there would be more arrests in future.

“After they have used the ‘sewers’ of the [Spanish] Interior Ministry, can anyone be sure that they won’t use them against other political groups?” Junqueras said.

But Junqueras also stressed that “everything is being done” to allow for the vote to go ahead.

Catalan government spokesperson Jordi Turull was also keen to present an air of business-as-usual on Thursday morning in the wake of Wednesday’s raids and arrests. In an interview with regional radio station RAC1, he stressed that the regional government in Catalonia remained determined to hold a referendum on October 1 despite Madrid ramping up attempts to stop the poll from going ahead.

In another interview with broadcaster Catalunya Ràdio, Turull – who acknowledged that relations with the central government in Madrid had completely broken down – refused to be drawn on logistical details of how the vote would go ahead, saying these would be explained in due course. “Now the most important part is the soul, the attitude,” the government spokesperson said.

It is not clear whether voters in Catalonia will be asked to print off their own ballot papers for the referendum

Turull did not clarify whether regional premier Carles Puigdemont had been suggesting in comments made on Wednesday that voters would print their own ballot papers in the wake of police seizures of that documentation.

Meanwhile, the central government delegate in Catalonia, Enric Millo, on Thursday called for Puigdemont to “correct” his course as October 1 approached and accused the Catalan leader of “lying to, cheating and manipulating” the people of Catalonia with his comments, suggesting that Wednesday’s raids and arrests were “a de facto suspension of Catalonia’s self-government and a de facto application of a state of exception.”

Speaking to Catalunya Ràdio, he said Puigdemont’s comments were “absolutely false,” adding that lying in this way was “gravely irresponsible.”

English version by George Mills.

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