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Spain's Prime Minister Rajoy takes Catalan reform to court

July 28, 2017

Rajoy has lodged legal action against a reform by Catalonian lawmakers that would allow them to fast-track independence in one day. The prime minister also called a planned independence referendum "radical and divisive."

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy
Image: Getty Images/AFP/P.-P. Marcou

At the last press conference before the Spanish government heads off on vacation, Prime Minister Rajoy announced on Friday that his government would lodge legal action with the Spanish Constitutional Court against Catalonia's latest bid to lay out a path to independence from the rest of Spain.

Rajoy's announcement addressed a procedural reform that lawmakers in Catalonia had approved on Wednesday that would allow the region's government to fast-track its approval of laws of secession without debate and within a single day. The head of government and his advisers believe that Spain's top court will find the proposed reform unconstitutional for violating the right to political participation.

The proposed reform lacks "the most elemental democratic guarantees," Rajoy said, making it a clear violation of both the Spanish Constitution and the region's Statute of Autonomy, which outlines the areas of self-governance that are independent from Madrid.

The autonomous institutions of Catalonia and the bureaucrats who serve them "cannot be used to deliver an action that blatantly contradicts law," Rajoy added.

The prime minister from the conservative People's Party and his government adamantly oppose the Catalan secessionist movement, which wants the semi-autonomous region in Spain's northeast to split off from the rest of Spain and become its own sovereign state.

Read more: Weber says EU wouldn't accept Catalan independence

Protests in favor of Catalan independence from Spain
Protesters cheer during a demonstration in favor of Catalan independence from Spain in June 2017. Image: Getty Images/AFP/L. Gene

'Radical and divisive'

On Friday, Rajoy once again blasted Catalonia's independence push, calling it a "radical and divisive project" that is being forced upon a pluralistic Catalan society.

"There will not be a referendum on October 1," Rajoy flatly stated, referring to the Catalonian government's scheduled date to ask voters whether or not they want Catalonia to be an independent state. The government considers the referendum to be unconstitutional and illegal.

The prime minister stressed that his government was determined to defend the nation's laws with serenity and moderation through legal means. His government recently promised to cut off funds from Madrid to the Catalonian government if it discovered the region was using them to fund the planned October vote.  

Pro-independence groups held a non-binding referendum in 2014 as a way to circumvent legal obstacles. Just under two million out of the region's 7.5 million inhabitants voted in favor of secession, though voter turnout among eligible voters was low.

The latest July polls from the regional government's Opinion Studies Center (CEO) show that 41.1 percent of Catalonians currently favor becoming independent, a drop of around three percent since March 2017. Around 49.4 percent of those polled oppose secession.

cmb/msh (EFE, Reuters)