• Junts pel Sí, CUP pro-independence parties pass law despite court warnings
• Socialists, Ciudadanos, PP walkout to protest irregularities, stifling of debate
Despite repeated warnings from Spain’s Constitutional Court (Tribuna Constitutional) and in the face of vociferous opposition followed by a walkout of nearly half the deputies in Catalonia’s regional legislature, a 72-deputy pro-independence majority in the 135-seat Catalan Parlament late Wednesday passed a much-anticipated law authorizing a referendum vote set for 1st October to decide the northeast region’s independence from Spain.
The law was passed with a vote in favor of 62 deputies belonging to the Junts pel Sí coalition and 10 deputies from the coalition’s far-left, pro-independence allies, the Candidatura de Unidad Popular (CUP). No votes were cast against the measure, as following a daylong tussle involving protest over procedural irregularities in calling the vote, 52 deputies walked out of the chamber in protest, including 16 deputies of the Partido de los Socialistas de Cataluña (PSC-PSOE), 25 from centre-right Ciudadanos (Ciutadans) and 11 from the conservative Partido Popular de Cataluña (PPC). Eleven deputies from the Podemos-backed Catalunya Sí que es Pot coalition abstained on the vote, but not before displaying a clear rift in their ranks over whether the three-year-old anti-austerity party should support or register the party leadership’s qualified dissent over the referendum law through an abstention vote.
Spain’s central government immediately filed a complaint with the Tribuna Constitutional over the procedural anomalies in the introduction of the law, asking the court to nullify the proceedings in the Parlament and suspend Carme Forcadell, the president of the legislature’s Mesa Directiva (Executive Commission), for having presided over the introduction of the law in violation of Spain’s 1978 Constitution. Earlier in the day, it was revealed that the Catalan regional government agency established to provide legal counsel to the Parlament had warned Forcadell that the law was being introduced in violation of the legislature’s own statutes and regulations, thereby leaving leaders and officials of the Parlament exposed to legal liability.
Immediately following the approval of the referendum law on Wednesday, Spanish President Mariano Rajoy followed up the previously filed complaint against Forcadell by filing a second legal complaint with the Constitutional Court calling for annulment of the referendum law on the basis of its violation of the Spanish Constitution. If the court admits the government’s challenge to the law, the legislation would automatically be suspended for up to five months, while the court hears the case — making illegal the holding of the referendum vote on 1st October and placing Catalan officials organizing the vote in contempt of the court and subject to possible immediate sanctions by the court.
On Thursday morning, the 12-judge Tribuna Constitucional re-ordered its agenda to immediately consider both complaints.