Step towards independence: Catalonia sets up referendum panel despite court move
Artur Mas, president of Spain’s autonomous community of Catalonia, decided to push ahead with the region’s proposed independence referendum, calling a panel of seven political scientists and lawyers elected by the local parliament to administer the independence referendum on Thursday evening, a statement in the official newspaper of the Catalonian government said.
It is the first official move towards the referendum, which comes in defiance of the Monday ruling by the nation’s Constitutional Court, which declared the vote illegal following the government's drive to abolish it. In a Wednesday address to the Catalan Regional Parliament, Mas said he was determined to continue challenging the state, El Mundo reported.
The reaction of the government and the ruling conservative People's Party was prompt. Alicia Sánchez-Camacho, the party's president in Catalonia, said the party “is going to file a lawsuit in the court contesting the assignment and the body of this committee the next week.”
"Mas has lost his sense of responsibility, his sense of state, and his common sense," Sanchez-Camacho said.
Staunchly opposing the independence referendum, the government in Madrid, as well as the People's Party, has decided to launch a political and media campaign of their own. A government source told El Pais that it might be influenced by the “Better Together” pro-union campaign, organized by some Scottish parties ahead of their independence referendum, which turned out to be an effective means against the 'Yes' vote.
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Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Catalans took to the streets to voice their dissatisfaction with the Constitutional Court’s ruling this week. Not stopped by the rain, they showed their determination to continue on their path towards independence. In Barcelona, the capital of the region and the second-largest Spanish city, protesters carried a large banner which read "a small country that we all make great.”
Located in the northeast of Spain, Catalonia is a prosperous region and an industrious center, with its economy accounting for one-fifth of Spain’s economy. It has its own language, a rich culture, and a history of rebellions against the Spanish Crown.
In 2014, Catalonia and its push for sovereignty has been frequently compared with Scotland, which voted 'No' at last month's referendum, destroying the hopes of creating a precedent for other regions longing for independence. The reasons for the comparison have been economic. However, Scotland had an official agreement with London to conduct the referendum, while it remains a hot-button issue for Madrid.