Monday, September 29, 2014

Madrid plans legal attack against Catalonia poll



Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is hoping the country's Constitutional Court can kill off plans for an independence vote in Catalonia. Photo: Jaime Reina/AFP

Spanish government ministers are holding an extraordinary meeting on Monday morning to draw up measures designed to block an upcoming vote on the issue of independence in Spain's Catalonia region. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is expected to make a statement at 12.30pm

The critical meeting comes after the President of Catalonia Artur Mas on Saturday officially called the non-binding poll on whether the region should split from the rest of Spain.

Madrid has repeatedly labelled the unilateral vote illegal, arguing it is unconstitutional.

The central government responded immediately to Mas's calling of the vote on Saturday, saying it would began the process of appealing to the Constitutional Court, a body which is expected to annul the decree signed by Mas.

In doing so, they will have the backing of the Spanish Council of State which on Sunday ruled Catalonia did not have the power to hold the vote.

This legal appeal to the Constitutional Court and other measures are expected to be addressed at Monday's meeting of ministers although the exact details of the government's plan of attack remain unclear.

According to Spanish daily El País, the government will also appeal against a law recently passed by Catalonia's regional parliamentallowing for the holding of the controversial vote. 

However, the daily noted the government has not outlined how it will respond if the Catalan government continues to push ahead with a poll despite a legal roadblock from Madrid.

Legal experts consulted by the paper said in such an event, the poll results would be considered null and void. Opinions on whether the Catalan government would face legal punishment were mixed, with some experts arguing that scenario was unlikely.

But one former prosecutor with Catalonia's Supreme Court, José María Mena, said that once the bill allowing for holding of the independence referendum had been suspended, anyone involved in promoting the referendum would be charged an punished. 

Catalan President Mas, meanwhile, has said he is confident Spain's Constitutional Court will allow the November 9th vote to be held.

Proud of their distinct Catalan language and culture, many of Catalonia's 7.5 million inhabitants feel short-changed by the national government in Madrid, which redistributes their taxes.

Catalonia formally adopted the status of a "nation" in 2006 but Spain's Constitutional Court later overruled that claim.

The Local

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