Catalonia independence: Spanish government acts to halt referendum

 

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The Spanish government has filed appeals at the country's top court to try and halt the powerful north-eastern region of Catalonia from staging an independence referendum.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said the November 9 referendum called by Catalan regional leader Artur Mas represented "a grave attack on the rights of all Spaniards", who under the 1979 Spanish Constitution are the only ones who can vote on issues of sovereignty.

He stressed the constitution "was based on the indissoluble unity of the Spanish state" and that while the charter could be amended in the future, right now the government's priority is to defend it. He spoke after a special cabinet meeting called to discuss the crisis.

He said the government is challenging both the referendum call and a law passed by the Catalan government that allowed Mr Mas to call the vote.

 

If the Constitutional Court takes on the appeals, as is widely expected to happen this week, both the law and the referendum will automatically be suspended while the court deliberates, a process that could take months or years.

Unhappy at Spain's refusal to give it more powers, Catalonia has vowed for months to hold the referendum. The move is the latest secession push in Europe following Scotland's recent vote to remain part of the UK.

Polls indicate most Catalans favour holding the referendum but are roughly evenly split on independence.

Mr Mas insists the vote will take place but at the same time he says he will not do anything illegal.

Catalonia, whose capital is Barcelona, has prepared ballot boxes and begun publicity campaigns to inform the region's five million voters about the referendum.

Mr Rajoy said it is not too late for the Catalan government to change direction, adding that he remains opened to talks.

PA

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