Catalan regional premier Carles Puigdemont attempted on Thursday to assuage doubts about the viability of the illegal independence referendum that authorities in the northeastern region are planning to hold on October 1. In a statement broadcast by regional television channel TV-3, the politician said that the poll would still go ahead as there are “contingency plans in place to guarantee it will happen.” One of those plans included the announcement of a website where citizens can consult the locations of voting stations.
The announcement came after the Civil Guard launched a number of raids and made 14 arrests on Wednesday, in an operation ordered by a judge aimed at seizing material being prepared for the vote and detaining people suspected of ignoring the suspension of the poll by the Constitutional Court.
“I want to call on people to continue to defend the celebration [of the referendum] until October 1, with the same enthusiasm, civility and conviction as they have done until now,” the premier said in the broadcast.
The message came at the end of a day when the regional government was trying to downplay the effect that the police operations have had on the plans for the vote. Earlier in the day, deputy regional premier Oriol Junqueras had stated that the “state of play” had changed in the wake of the arrests, which included a number of high-ranking regional politicians.
I want to call on people to continue to defend the the referendum with enthusiasm, civility and conviction Carles Puigdemont
In a separate development, Spain’s main political parties, the governing Popular Party (PP) and the Socialist Party (PSOE), made clear they were willing to discuss the future regional model for Catalonia if the referendum were called off.
Puigdemont also took advantage of the broadcast to attack the Popular Party central government in Madrid, and the police operation that took place on Wednesday, which saw the authorities seize nine million voting slips that had been printed for the referendum.
“Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has crossed a lot of red lines this week […],” he stated. “Now it is not a question of deciding on a political link with the state, but rather whether we want to live in a regime that is fully democratic and respects freedoms,” he added.
The Catalan premier also denounced the arrests as being “theatrical and exaggerated.” “All of the machinery of the Spanish state is geared toward stopping the Catalan people from voting,” he said.
English version by Simon Hunter.