Spain’s Constitutional Court suspends Catalan independence parliament session

The Constitutional Court in Madrid has suspended a session of the Catalan parliament in which local leaders were expected to unilaterally declare independence from Spain. It follows the referendum last weekend.

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Spain’s political crisis intensifies with war of words

The Catalan Socialist Party, which opposes the region’s secession from the rest of Spain, had called for
next Monday’s parliamentary session in Barcelona, which was to discuss the referendum result, to be blocked. The region’s largest opposition party mounted a legal challenge and filed a writ of protection with the federal tribunal, saying that a declaration of independence by Catalonia would violate the constitution and “destroy” the rights of regional deputies, according to El Pais newspaper on Thursday.

Lawyers for the Catalan parliament had also warned the session scheduled for Monday would be illegal because it was to include debate of the referendum result.

On Wednesday, pro-independence groups called for Monday’s parliamentary session to determine the next steps towards independence.

There were also reports that the central government would approve a decree law on Friday to make it easier for companies to change their domicile, without calling a shareholders’ meeting.

Catalonia is the country’s richest region and home to thousands of domestic and foreign companies. On Thursday, two of the country’s biggest banks,Sabadell and Caixabank, discussed moving their headquarters away from Catalonia.

Last Sunday’s secession referendum had been ruled illegal by the Constitutional Court and riot police were sent it to stop it taking place.

Spanish riot police were sent to Barcelona to block the referendumSpanish riot police were sent to Barcelona to block the referendum

Under article 155 of the Spanish constitution, the central government in Madrid can suspend the autonomous powers of the northeastern region of Catalonia.

Shortly after last Sunday’s referendum, Justice Minister Rafae Catala said during a television interview: “The article 155 is there. We will use the entire force of the law. Our obligation is to resolve problems and we’ll do it, even though using certain measures might hurt. But, if someone declares independence, well we’d have to tell them that they can’t.”

After Sunday’s vote, Catalan leaders said 90 percent of votes counted favored independence and that opened the door to a unilateral call for secession from the rest of Spain. Turnout, however, was well below 50 percent.

Voting form for Catalan independence referendumVoting form for Catalan independence referendum

King and Madrid against Catalonia

Earlier this week, Spain’s King Felipe VI sided with conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s government and accused the Catalan authorities of “disloyalty” and being “completely on the margins of law and democracy.”

The king made no reference to the police violence employed during Sunday’s vote, or to those injured.

Catalan leaders “with their irresponsible conduct could put at risk the economic and social stability of Catalonia and all of Spain”, Felipe said.

Nor did he speak in favor of mediation or dialogue, saying that the state had to “ensure constitutional order.” His televised statement on Tuesday evening was seen as paving the way for Madrid to take severe measures to block any attempts at independence in Catalonia.

Called for mediation from Barcelona

In an interview on Thursday with Spain’s official EFE news agency, Rajoy called for “the prompt return to
legality and the affirmation, as early as possible, that there will be no unilateral declaration of independence, because that way greater evils will be avoided.”

Regional president Carles Puigdemont on Wednesday called for mediation but did not withdraw his threat to declare independence. He called the central government’s policies “disastrous” as the region’s leaders pushed on with its bid to break away from Spain.

“The king has adopted the [national] government’s position and policies which have been disastrous with regard to Catalonia. He is deliberately ignoring millions of Catalans,” Puigdemont said on Wednesday.

Puigdemont also accused the national government of failing to respond to proposals for mediation in the crisis.

Barcelona soccer stars urge talks

Barcelona Football Club and its captain Andres Iniesta also urged dialogue as a solution. In a Facebook message on Thursday, the 33-year-old midfielder and hero of Spain’s 2010 World Cup final victory wrote: “Before we do any more harm … those who are responsible for all this must hold a dialogue.”

Barcelona defender and Spanish national team player Gerard Pigue had come under attack after he voted in the referendum. He insisted dialogue was the only way forward: “Spain has the choice to just say no or to sit down and talk. I don’t see what you have to lose by talking. Dialogue brings people together.”

In a separate statement on Thursday, Barcelona Football Club called for “dialogue and respect.”

jm/msh (Reuters, EFE, AFP)

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