Catalonia Secessionists Fail to Win Allies in Referendum Battle

  • Barcelona declines use of voting centers for referendum
  • Pro-secession demonstrations seen for ‘Diada’ on Sept. 11

Ada Colau

Photographer: Pau Barrena/AFP via Getty Images

Catalonia’s bid to hold an independence referendum was set back as Barcelona refused to let its voting centers be used for the ballot opposed by the national government.

Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau told Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont in a letter Friday she couldn’t allow use of the centers until he could outline plans for protecting public employees from the consequences of working on the vote, according to El Pais. Spain’s constitutional court on Thursday said it would ask 947 Catalan mayors to avoid taking part in the referendum.

Ada Colau

Photographer: Pau Barrena/AFP via Getty Images

The refusal by Catalonia’s biggest city for now to aid the referendum is a blow to Puigdemont as court rulings sought by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy add legal pressure on public officials seen to be facilitating the vote. Catalan secessionists have a chance to flaunt their support on Monday with mass demonstrations to mark the region’s “national day” or Diada.

“It is a significant development because it makes the whole referendum process that much more problematic,” said Caroline Gray, lecturer in politics and Spanish at Aston University in the U.K. who specializes in independence movements.

A spokesman for the Catalan government wasn’t immediately available for comment when contacted Saturday.

Puigdemont’s coalition in the Catalan parliament passed a bill on Sept. 6 to call the independence referendum for Oct. 1. To the fury of Rajoy’s government, the assembly has also passed a bill laying out how Catalonia would be run under a transition to potentially becoming a republic.

Access Blocked

Puigdemont’s problems go beyond Barcelona. Another six population centers with more than 100,000 inhabitants including L’Hospitalet de Llobregat and Tarragona have blocked access to their voting centers, El Pais reported. Toni Castejon, general secretary of the union of the Catalan regional police force, told Cadena Ser radio on Sept. 7 that his members had no option but to obey the law because they all know the consequences of not doing so.

On the other hand, 674 town halls in the region have said they’ll support the referendum, according to the Association of Municipalities for Independence.

“It’s interesting how the different actors are coming out now to position themselves,” said Gray. “We’ll have to see how Puigdemont responds.”

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