Spain Court Ruling May Hasten Catalan Secession, Separatists Say

  • Pro-secession groups setting ways to disobey court rulings
  • Most of region's city halls in hands of separatist councillors

Spain’s Constitutional Court could trigger an acceleration of Catalonia’s breakaway efforts if it tries to stop the region’s parliament starting the process of secession, said the head of the region’s most important separatist civic group.

“If the Constitutional Court say that it’s not possible to vote” on a plan that would kick off the move, “then it’s opened the door to disobedience,” Catalan National Assembly’s Jordi Sanchez said in an interview Wednesday. “I think the Constitutional Court won’t do anything -- but if they do it, then it would be running ahead of the events.”

The Catalan Parliament is set to vote on a declaration that would initiate moves toward independence on Monday, a step that Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy says is illegal. The premier can attempt to block the move in Spain’s highest court, and the constitution also gives him the capacity to remove powers from the regional administration in certain circumstances.

“We’re facing the biggest threat to the constitutional order and the Spanish nation in decades,” Rajoy said in Madrid Wednesday. The government has all legal tools to face off Catalan plans to break away from Spain, but “prudence and proportionality” are key, he said.

Separatist Backlash

While any action by the central government in Madrid risks a backlash, the pro-secession camp may struggle to enforce its plan, according to Sanchez. That’s because acting president Artur Mas’ Junts pel Si platform has failed so far to convince anti-system party CUP to support his third term as head of the Catalan executive.

“You can’t get into such a scenario without having a government,” said Sanchez. “If the lawmakers get blocked by the Constitutional Court and at that point there’s no president, then you have a conflict of legitimacies.”

Pro-secession parties and civic groups are already setting up alternative ways to keep control of Catalonia even if their lawmakers, which currently have an outright majority in the parliament, get suspended, said Sanchez. The Catalan National Assembly and Omnium Cultural, the region’s most important civic groups, are gaining importance in setting the political agenda in the pro-secession camp after they led hundreds of thousands at demonstrations in Barcelona during Catalan day on Sept. 11 over the past years.

“Nobody should forget that most of the city halls as well as most of the councilors are supporting the process” of independence, said Sanchez, without providing further details. “Citizens’ demands need to continue to stay visible.”

While the central government so far hasn’t filed a lawsuit against the pro-secession proposal, the unionist parties including Rajoy’s People’s Party, Ciudadanos and the Catalan Socialists has asked the Constitutional Court to take precautionary measures against the move. The Court is discussing the request on Thursday. 

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