No Catalonia independence referendum for now, president says

Catalans march in Barcelona on September 11, 2014, to celebrate their National Day.

Story highlights

  • There will be no independence referendum in November, Catalan president says
  • Spain's Constitutional Court suspended the vote to hear government's appeal
  • Catalonia, in northeastern Spain, already has its own parliament, police force
Catalonia's November 9 independence referendum will not be held as planned due to the suspension of the vote by Spain's Constitutional Court, Catalan President Artur Mas announced Tuesday in Barcelona.
Mas said the decree he recently signed authorizing the referendum "now has no effect," given that the Constitutional Court has accepted the Spanish government's appeal for study, automatically suspending the vote.
The Spanish government, in appealing to the Constitutional Court, said the Catalan vote as planned for November 9 was unconstitutional because the constitution holds that all of Spain, not just one region such as Catalonia, must decide on the country's future.
Scottish independence vote closely watched
Hundreds of thousands of Catalans have demonstrated in recent years for an independence referendum, and they closely watched the recent independence vote in Scotland. Even after Scotland voted to remain a part of the United Kingdom, many Catalans said the key issue was being able to vote in Catalonia on independence, which the Spanish government has opposed.
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Catalonia's push for independence vote
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Mas said there will still be a vote on November 9, but it will be organized by the Catalan government under Catalan legislation that has not been blocked by the court. It will be called a "consultation," and will be conducted by volunteers, not the usual electoral officials. And the polling places will be only in Catalan regional government buildings, not at numerous other sites, such as at city halls, many of which had opposed the referendum.
Unity in question
Mas said the Catalan political parties -- including his nationalist Convergence and Union party -- that had favored the referendum and independence are no longer as united as they recently were on the issue. Leftist pro-independence parties have insisted that the November 9 referendum be held as planned, despite the court's ruling, and some have called for a unilateral declaration of independence.
On September 11, Catalan national day, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Barcelona for the third year in a row, demanding a vote on independence be held.
Self-governance
But Madrid argues that Catalonia, which represents one fifth of Spain's economy, already has broad home-rule powers, including its own parliament, police force and control over education and health. And it insists that the Spanish Constitution does not allow any of Spain's 17 regions to unilaterally break away.
Catalonia is a region of northeastern Spain, with Barcelona -- the second-largest city in Spain -- as its capital.
If there is eventually a referendum, voters are expected to be asked a two-part question: "Should Catalonia be a state?" And those who vote yes to that can then vote on the second question: "Should that state be independent?"
Polls indicate that a majority of Catalans want to have a chance to vote but that less than a majority would vote for independence, given the chance.