Policemen block far-right demonstrators protesting against the presence of Catalan President Carles Puigdemont in Madrid, Spain, May 22, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
The Constitutional Court of Spain has blocked Catalonia
’s latest stab at secession by suspending a referendum law that the Catalan parliament approved on Wednesday to pave the way for an independence vote on October 1.
The suspension would remain in effect until the judges consider arguments by the Spanish government that the vote breaches the country’s constitution, court sources said Thursday.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said earlier in the day that he had appealed to the court to declare the independence vote illegal. The Spanish constitution states that the country is indivisible.
According to the Spanish daily El Pais, the Constitutional Court also banned a number of Catalan government officials from partaking in all electoral activities.
Catalan legislators voted for the disputed bill on the referendum and its date late on Wednesday. The date of the plebiscite was confirmed by Regional President Carles Puigdemont.
The Spanish government went out of its way to stop the independence bid.
Spain’s state prosecutor’s office said on Thursday that criminal charges would be filed against leading members of the Catalan parliament for allowing the Wednesday vote.
The government in Madrid punished Catalan politicians for preparing a non-binding ballot on independence in 2014. That referendum saw a low turnout of just over 30 percent.
Jose Manuel Maza, the state prosecutor general, said he had also requested an investigation by prosecutors into any preparations by the Catalan government to hold the referendum.
Catalonia’s regional government has repeatedly made attempts for gaining outright independence from Spain but has failed due to a division among the 7.5 million residents of the region. The latest regional government poll shows that 48.5 percent of respondents opposed independence, with 44.3 percent in favor.
Many in the wealthy region, which provides almost a fifth of the Spanish economic output, have been wishing greater autonomy from Madrid in recent years.
They argue that Spain’s recent economic downturn is making Catalans pay more taxes to the central government to subsidize poorer regions. The highly-industrialized region has its own language and customs.