We’ll assume everyone has followed the story so far... so, as you may remember the Catalan government has been asking the Spanish government to sit down and work out a negotiated referendum with them for about two years. Spain has refused. Given their democratic mandate to call one, the Catalan government have gone ahead anyway. A “vote” was announced last year, and called formally on 27th September this year, with the backing of six political parties.The vote is set for 9th November.
On 29th September the Spanish government denounced this decision to the Constitutional Court which suspended the legality of the vote while they study the situation. As they say, Catalonia does not have the power to unilaterally call a referendum. But, knowing this, what Catalonia had actually done was call a “non binding public consultation” which should be possible with an objective reading of the Spanish Constitution.
The Catalans believe it doesn’t matter whether the vote is binding or not, as, if the results are clearly in favour of independence, this will start a chain of events which will end up at the same place as if the vote had been binding.
The Spanish government are not blind and realise this – their argument is that, whatever Catalans call this vote, it is ultimately a referendum “in sheep’s clothing”.
In the following days, 920 out of the 946 town mayors in Catalonia signed a declaration of support for the vote – a big move as local political power is very important here. On 3rd October, over 800 of these mayors assisted a formal official act in the centuries-old Catalan governmental building, the Palau de la Generalitat, where they handed these declarations of support over to the Parliament. See photo. A real tear-jerking moment.
Given that the Spanish state is a powerful one and there could be legal consequences for anyone involved in the “now suspended vote”, the Catalan government decided to change its format and on 14th October announced it would not be holding the vote as planned, but instead a “citizens participation process” organized by volunteers – something perfectly legal and low-key, but if Catalonia could manage to get the numbers out, once again, the real result would be the same as the original vote.
Preparations for this voting act (still set for 9th November) are in full flow, but the Spanish government has now said it will also ask the Constitutional Court to suspend this "new" set-up of the vote this week (before the 9th, obviously). Watch this space....