The President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, has formally called a consultation vote on the 9th of November in order “to know the [citizen] opinion” about “Catalonia’s political future” to launch “the legal, political and institutional initiative” with the aim of negotiating the necessary changes at Spanish level. The Spanish Government has immediately replied that such a vote “will not take place” and that it will take it to the Constitutional Court, as it had already announced.
The Spanish Executive assumes the Court will suspend the decree and the law on which it is based, and that these actions will stop November’s vote from happening. The decree has been signed on Saturday morning, in an exceptional ceremony held in Barcelona where Mas was surrounded by all the Catalan Ministers and most of the political leaders supporting November’s vote. The signature took place just after the Law on Consultation Votes had entered into force, which was approved by the Catalan Parliament with an 80% support a week ago. In addition, 92% of Catalonia’s municipalities have approved motions backing November’s vote. Mas insisted on the democratic and clear mandate from the last Catalan elections – held in November 2012 – to organise a self-determination vote to decide Catalonia’s political future. Furthermore, “as all the other nations in the world, Catalonia has the right to decide its own future”, he stressed.
The Catalan President also emphasised that “Catalans want to be heard”, mentioning the massive pro-independence and peaceful demonstrations of the last 3 years. He also sent a message to the international community and the rest of Spain: “democracy is the most civilised way of solving the difficulties between nations”, praising the countries that have allowed similar votes to happen. Mas underlined the four principles guiding Catalonia’s self-determination process and the consultation vote call: broad social majorities, political consensus, constant search for dialogue and respect for legal frameworks. The decree has entered into force this morning and, immediately after, the Catalan Government has already signed further regulations and protocols for holding the consultation vote in 6 weeks time. In addition, the instutional campaign to inform about the vote has also been launched.
After several days waiting for the decree calling the 9th of November’s consultation vote, the document has been formally signed and has entered into force this morning. With this non-binding consultation vote, the Catalan Government aims to gather the opinion of those living in Catalonia about the country’s political future and its relationship with Spain with the objective “to exercise the legal, political and institutional initiative” at Spanish level for making the necessary changes in accordance with the consultation vote’s results. The Catalan Government is using its legal prerogatives to consult the citizenry about Catalonia’s political future. Once their opinion will be known, the Catalan institutions will use their legal powers, explicitly recognised by the Spanish Constitution, to launch a negotiation process with the Spanish authorities to totally review Catalonia’s relation with the rest of Spain, in line with the opinion explicitly expressed by the majority of the people living in Catalonia.
A self-determination process based on four guiding principles, stated Mas
The Catalan President has emphasised the respect for the legal framework as a guiding principle of the current self-determination process. The three other principles are listening to broad social majorities, moving forward with a broad political consensus and having a constant and open attitude to talk.
In fact, a two-third majority of the Catalan Parliament reached an agreement on the 12th of December, 2013 to organise such a vote on the 9th of November, 2014, after the Spanish Government rejected to talk about the democratic mandate resulting from the last Catalan Parliament elections, held in November 2012. Those elections were called earlier, after 1.5 million Catalans peacefully demonstrated in Barcelona to demand independence from Spain. They registered the highest turnout in decades and self-determination was the central issue, with parties clearly supporting or rejecting this idea. Back then, 80% of the elected MPs explicitly supported a legal self-determination vote during the electoral campaign. After the elections were held, the Catalan President emphasised: “We have a clear democratic mandate”.
“We are open to negotiate” until “the very last minute”, but “we will not fall into the trap of the do-nothing attitude” imposed by the Spanish Government in order to avoid any change, stated Mas. “Catalonia wants to speak up, wants to vote”, he stressed. “Voting should not scare anyone”, Mas emphasised. Catalonia is a nation and “as all the other nations in the world, Catalonia has the right to decide its own future”, stressed the 129th President of the Catalan Government. In fact, Mas pointed out that the Catalan Government – called Generalitat – was founded in the 14th century and that, in those 700 years, “only external impositions have suspended our self-government”.
The Spanish Government has already activated its veto actions
The Spanish Deputy Prime Minister, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, addressed the press to announce the measures to be adopted to stop the vote from happening. Sáenz de Santamaría referred to the non-binding consultation vote as a “self-determination referendum”, insisting that it was a de facto referendum on Spain’s sovereignty. “There is nothing above the sovereign will of the Spanish people” and “all the Spaniards are those who have to decide on what is Spain and how it should be organised”, she stated. Furthermore, she added that “no government is above the sovereign will of Spaniards as a whole”. In addition, Spanish Deputy PM highlighted that “without law there is no democracy”. “The Government of the Nation has the obligation to protect the law and the right of all Spaniards”, she concluded in order to justify the appeals to the Constitutional Court to stop Catalonia’s consultation vote. According to her, such a vote “breaks and splits” Catalan society, “keeping them away from Europe and from the sense of the [current] times”.
Sáenz de Santamaría announced that the Spanish Government has already asked for a report to the Council of State, its main advisory body, which is a mandatory but non-binding legal step before filing a constitutional appeal. The report is expected within 48 hours. Then, the Spanish Government will hold an exceptional Cabinet meeting to approve the two appeals against the Catalan Law on Consultation Votes and the decree signed this Saturday. Sáenz de Santamaría announced in early September that the two appeals had already been prepared, weeks before the law’s and the decree’s approval and before knowing their definitive and exact wording. The appeals will be filed to the Constitutional Court and then, in its plenary session, this institution will decide whether it accepts the Spanish Government’s appeals or not. The next plenary session is scheduled on the 7th of October, but an early one could take place next week, although it would contribute to underline the Court’s lack of independence from the Spanish Government.
Watch the entire speech here