22 December 2016

Spain’s Constitutional Court Suspends Referendum on Catalan Independence

MADRID – The highest court in Spain has decided to provisionally suspend a resolution by the Catalan parliament calling for a 2017 referendum on the northeastern region’s independence from Spain, the court said Wednesday.

Spain’s plenary Constitutional Court – tasked with determining the constitutionality of acts and statutes – voted to admit a motion by the State’s counsel arguing that the resolution passed by the regional parliament of Catalonia was unconstitutional.

The court also warned the Catalan regional government it could incur penal responsibilities if it ignored the court’s mandate.

The Spanish government accused the Catalan parliament of disobeying previous Constitutional Court decisions when the regional legislative passed a resolution on Oct. 6 titled “The Political Future of Catalonia,” with references a “referendum” and a “constituent process.”

The resolution passed the chamber with favorable votes from independence coalition party Together for Yes (JxSí, primarily made up by the center-right Democratic Convergence of Catalonia and progressive Republican Left of Catalonia) and the far-left Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP), as well as the abstention of Catalonia Yes We Can, a left-wing coalition that supports the right of self-determination but does not explicitly back Catalonia’s secession from Spain.

The document called for a binding referendum to be held no later than Sept. 2017, and for “constituent elections” to be held six months after a hypothetical win for the “yes” to independence option.

The President of Catalonia’s parliament, Carme Forcadell, is set to appear before the Catalan High Court of Justice on Dec. 16 under charges of disobeying previous decisions by the Constitutional Court that blocked any attempts at creating a legislative roadmap for Catalan independence from Spain.

Catalan nationalism has long been an important political force that started as an effort by 19th-century intellectuals to restore self-government and obtain recognition for the Catalan language.

Following four decades of brutal repression by the regime of Gen. Francisco Franco, Catalan nationalism re-emerged from clandestinity in the late 1970s and has since become a growing political movement with vast support among the population of the region, which has the highest GDP in Spain and is the country’s most industrialized and prosperous territory.

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