Catalan President Pledges Vote on Independence in September 2017by
Puigdemont says Catalan state institutions ready by June
Spanish government paralyzed by divisions in national assembly
Regional President Carles Puigdemont said Catalonia will be ready for independence by June next year and vowed to hold a referendum on secession regardless of what the Spanish government might say.
Catalans will get to vote on a split from the rest of Spain in the second half of September, 2017, Puigdemont told lawmakers in the regional assembly in Barcelona Wednesday before a confidence vote on his government. His plan will almost certainly face a legal challenge from the central government in Madrid and from the Spanish courts.
“The answer to Catalan demands will be a referendum,” Puigdemont said. “We will honor the mandate of the people.”
Puigdemont, from the pro-business wing of the Catalan movement, is trying to hold his separatist coalition together by plowing ahead with the independence push after the anarchists of the CUP blocked his budget in June. CUP leader Anna Gabriel signaled her group will back Puigdemont again in the confidence vote on Thursday.
The move will infuriate many officials in Madrid where national parties have been trying and failing to put together a governing coalition for the past nine months. The struggle to build a consensus in the national parliament is in part due to divisions over how to handle the issue of Catalan separatism.
Puigdemont’s plan involves preparing the key institutions of an independent state, including a tax agency and a social security system, so that the region can “unplug” from Spain. The Constitutional Court is considering whether to open a criminal case against the speaker of the regional parliament, after the chamber approved a roadmap toward secession.
“We will try to negotiate it with the state and until the last moment,” Puigdemont said.
Support for independence was 41.6 percent in June, according to a poll by the regional government’s pollster. That compares with a peak of 48.5 percent in November, 2013.
Puigdemont heads an alliance between the pro-business party Convergencia and left-wing Esquerra Republicana which has 62 out of 135 seats in the regional chamber, leaving him dependent on the CUP’s 10 lawmakers -- who share his separatist ambitions but little else -- to pass legislation.
The movement already organized one unofficial referendum in November, 2014. With the Spanish courts threatening legal measures against anyone involved in organizing the ballot, 81 percent backed independence and turnout was about 37 percent.