Independence Referendum decree to be approved "at the beginning of September"
Barcelona (ACN).- The Catalan President, Carles Puigdemont, said on Monday that the decree calling for the independence referendum to be held October 1 will be signed "at the beginning of September". The law will be approved by the entire government and even mayors and local councilors might take part in the event, Puigdemont explained. The law of transitional jurisprudence, which will make it possible for the referendum to be called under the Catalan legal system, will be passed in the second half of August. The Catalan President also said that he plans to write a letter to the Spanish Congress in the next few days asking for the opportunity to "explain" his independence referendum plans in the chamber. "I will ask to explain why we are doing this, because they are not understanding what is going on," he said during an interview on Catalan TV.
However, the Catalan President argued that he will not seek permission from Madrid to hold the independence referendum, which has already been scheduled for October 1. "It is not time for proposals anymore. That is over," he said during a joint interview with Vice President Oriol Junqueras. However, his proposal was quickly rejected by the Spanish Vice President, Soraya Saénz de Santamaría, who warned that "the Congress is not a conference room" and insisted that deputies should vote, and reject, any self-determination plans.
The Catalan Government has said several times over the last few weeks that proposals for a referendum vote have already been rejected over and over again in the Spanish chamber, without any alternative plans having been proposed by central Spanish Government politicians. Puigdemont said that it "doesn't make sense" to put the Catalan Government plans to a vote in Madrid once again if there is no previous agreement, nor willingness to achieve one, between Barcelona and Madrid. Moreover, he said that the Catalan referendum’s legitimacy comes from the Parliamentary majority in Catalonia and the electoral mandate of the parties that won the last election on September 27, 2015.
The Spanish Government wants the Spanish Congress to vote, and thus reject, the referendum plans. Saénz de Santamaría accused the Catalan executive of creating a "tense" atmosphere in order to "provoke" a reaction by Madrid. She also said that pro-independence forces want to impose a "single view" about the future of the country and warned that the Spanish Government will firmly react to any attempts to break the unity of Spain. In fact, several pro-independence politicians, including the Catalan Parliament President, Carme Forcadell, are facing prosecution for allowing the referendum plans to even be debated in the chamber. The former Catalan President, Artur Mas, and two of his ministers, have been banned from office for almost two years because of their involvement in the 2014 non-official, non-binding vote on independence. Some fear Puigdemont and Junqueras might be next.
But the Catalan President and his number two defended in their joint interview the legitimacy of the October 1 referendum. "We will only accept being suspended from office by the only institution that has the right to suspend us: the Catalan Parliament," Puigdemont said. The Catalan President promised that he will call early elections "in 24 hours" if the 'no' wins the independence referendum on October 1. Unionist parties such as liberal Ciutadans or the People's Party have urged the Catalan President to call such an election now, and even the Spanish government suggested that the referendum plans were only an "excuse" to prepare for regional elections. But Puigdemont said that the commitment of his government towards the independence referendum was clear, insisting that while his coalition partner, Oriol Junqueras, could take advantage of an early election by becoming the first political force in Catalonia, he would rather hold the independence vote.
During the interview, Junqueras explained that the executive will take all necessary measures to ensure that the referendum takes places with all the "democratic guarantees". "No circumstance will impede the referendum," Junqueras warned when asked about Spain's threats to suspend the Catalan government autonomy or take control of Catalan police. The Vice President explained that the winning option will be the one getting a majority of votes, while stressing that there won't be a participation threshold, so abstentions could not be counted as 'no'. "We hope 'no' voters will turn out," Puigdemont said. The Catalan President added that the referendum will be "legally binding" and the Government will be apply the same rules as in any other electoral contest.