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29 Sep, 2014 23:40

‘Nobody is allowed to break up Spain’: Madrid court suspends Catalonia vote

‘Nobody is allowed to break up Spain’: Madrid court suspends Catalonia vote

Spain’s Constitutional Court decided Monday that Catalonia has no right to vote for its independence. The independence referendum planned by Catalonia’s President for this November was unanimously suspended by 12 judges.

READ MORE: Catalonia president orders independence referendum on Nov. 9

Speaking in a televised address after an emergency cabinet meeting Monday, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said he regretted Catalonia’s president Artur Mas’s decision to call for separation from Spain:

“I regret it because it’s against the law; it’s beyond democratic law, divides Catalans, distances them from Europe and the rest of Spain and seriously damages their welfare.”

Madrid has not yet voiced the government’s further plans beyond the appeal, although Rajoy is sure the Catalan president’s initiative, “being illegal won’t see the light of the day”.

“Nobody and nothing will be allowed to break up Spain”, the Prime Minister said.

Reuters / Albert Gea

A little earlier, the Spanish Conservative central government filed two appeals – one against the law by the Catalonian parliament allowing for the region’s vote for independence and the second one against the decree signed by the Catalonian president calling for independence.

Now that the suspension of the November 9 independence referendum has been approved, the court has five months to examine the matter.

Meanwhile in Catalonia, a large majority of the local population wish to hold a referendum, according to the latest polls. Many people have been encouraged by the September 18 Scottish referendum, where independence supporters were quite close to victory, losing by only about 10 percent to those in favor of staying in the United Kingdom. Some Catalans, unhappy with the Spanish ‘no’, have even been seen waving Scottish flags during the recent protests.

Experts now expect that the region’s president will call early local elections.

“We will not stand by idle after this suspension,” said Francesc Homs, spokesman for Mas’s government, following Rajoy’s announcement.

President of Catalonia's regional government Artur Mas delivers a speech during the presentation of the "White Book" on national transition of Catalonia in Barcelona on September 29, 2014. (AFP Photo / Quique Garcia)

On September 19, the regional parliament in Catalonia voted by 106 to 28 in favor of granting the president the power to hold the referendum.

“We want to be free, we want a new country,” ran the slogan of local political parties that support the government of President Mas.

According to the Catalan leader himself, “the future is something you conquer, not a gift, and we have to earn that.”

Just as the court was deciding against the Catalan vote, Mas presented a so-called “white book” in Barcelona. The 18-chapter document covers the issues of defense, social security, trade relations and financial viability plus some other steps that Catalonia will take if it manages to gain independence and integrate with the EU.

Catalonia is considered one of Spain’s richest industrialized regions. With the population of 7.5 million people – about 16 percent of the Spanish inhabitants – the region has its own language, culture and is proud of its independent-minded citizens.

Back in 2006, the region formally gained nation status. However, the claim was subsequently overruled by the Constitutional Court.