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Catalonia requests the Spanish Parliament to transfer powers to organise referendums

The Catalan Parliament has approved a resolution to formally request the Spanish Parliament to transfer the powers to organise referendums to the Catalan Government, following Article 150.2 of the Constitution. This mechanism will allow the Catalan Executive to directly call a self-determination referendum, a similar formula to the Scotland case. 87 MPs (64.4% of the Parliament) have backed the proposal and 43 MPs (31.8%) have voted against it. The 3 MPs of the radical left-wing and independence party CUP have abstained, arguing they do not think Spain has anything to say on Catalonia’s self-determination. Furthermore, 3 MPs from the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) have also backed the text, breaking the party leadership’s instructions. This vote is a true earthquake for the PSC, which might eventually split up.

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16 January 2014 06:50 PM

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ACN

Barcelona (ACN).- The Catalan Parliament has approved on Thursday a resolution to formally request the Spanish Parliament to transfer the powers to organise referendums to the Catalan Government, following Article 150.2 of the Spanish Constitution. This mechanism will allow the Catalan Executive to directly call a self-determination referendum, which is a similar formula to the one used in Scotland. 87 MPs, representing 64.4% of the Chamber, have backed the proposal and 43 MPs, representing 31.8% of the Parliament, have voted against it. The groups that have entirely backed the bill are the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU), the Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC) and the Catalan Green Socialist and Communist Coalition (ICV-EUiA). Furthermore, 3 MPs from the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) have also backed the text, breaking the party leadership’s instructions to vote against the resolution. This vote is a true earthquake for the PSC, which is facing many dissensions and might eventually split up. Besides, 3 Members of the radical left-wing and independence party CUP have abstained, although they were part of the agreement to hold a self-determination vote on the 9th of November. The CUP is arguing they do not think Spain has anything to say on Catalonia’s self-determination and therefore does not have to allow anything. The parties that have voted against the bill are the People’s Party (PP) – which runs the Spanish Government, the anti-Catalan nationalism and populist party Ciutadans (C’s) and a large share of the PSC MPs, whose leader imposed the ‘no’ vote despite the PSC having defended a legal self-determination vote to be organised this term as one of their campaign promises in the last elections.


64.4% of the Catalan Parliament is backing the request to transfer to the Catalan Executive the powers to organise a referendum. The bill has been backed by 87 MPs from 4 different groups and 5 political ideologies (Christian-Democrats, Liberals, Social-Democrats, Greens and Communist), with most of them supporting independence and a minority opposing it. However, they were all united by one main idea: the Catalan people have the right to decide on their own collective future and therefore to hold a self-determination vote.

Spain’s “no” will not stop the process

“In the 21st century, if something cannot be stopped, it is democracy”, stated the CiU’s Spokesperson, Jordi Turull. “Asking to vote is unconstitutional or maybe banning to vote is pre-constitutional [referring to the pre-democratic time under Franco’s dictatorship]”, wondered Turull.

The ERC’s Secretary General and ‘number 2’ of the party, Marta Rovira, directly told the Spanish Prime Minister and the PP that this is “the last opportunity to solve this political tension democratically. Blocking and threatening do not take us anywhere”, she said. In addition, Rovira stated that if the Spanish Government keeps “the veto” on Catalonia’s self-determination process, this will not stop it. On the contrary, if the PP continues to block things, the self-determination vote will have earned “all its legitimacy”.

The ICV-EUiA’s Spokesperson, Dolors Camats, highlighted that the Catalan Parliament’s bill is “the main democratic challenge” that the Spanish Parliament and Government will face. Furthermore, she insisted that “the likely negative answer” will “give Catalans greater reasons” before the international community “to continue with a process that aims at putting our country’s political future in the citizens’ hands”.

The CUP backs self-determination and independence but abstains from voting

The 3 MPs from the CUP have finally abstained despite totally backing self-determination and independence. If they had explicitly supported the bill, 90 ‘yes’ votes would have been reached, representing a two-third majority. However, the CUP rejected to vote ‘yes’ and preferred to abstain despite being part of December’s agreement to set an exact question wording and date to hold a self-determination vote. They said they cannot back the bill because they have historically campaigned against the Spanish Constitution and the Statute of Autonomy, and therefore they reject the idea of asking the Spanish authorities for permission to hold a vote. “We reject the subordination to the Spanish State and to the agreements reached with the Franco Regime elites [referring to the Constitution]”, said CUP MP Quim Arrufat.

The PSC is divided on the issue

The PSC’S Spokesperson, Maurici Lucena, stated that the “unilateral” proposal made by the Catalan Parliament “will make the agreement between the Spanish and Catalan Governments more difficult” and “even impossible”. The PSC stated that the bill forces the Spanish Authorities to accept the pro-self-determination views and they are therefore rejecting it. The PSC ran in the last election proposing a legal self-determination vote but in the last few months it has run away from this promise, since it is federated to the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) and the latter was on the verge of splitting up with them. The PSOE, which is now entirely against the right to self-determination (although in 1978, during the Constitutional debates it defended it), has managed to make the PSC leadership change its stance. However, a share of the PSC MPs feel very uncomfortable with this change and finally 3 of them supported the bill, breaking the party lines.

The Spanish Government will not accept being “blackmailed”

The President of the Catalan branch of the PP, Alícia Sánchez-Camacho, emphasised that the Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy “will not accept being imposed things or blackmailed”. Sánchez-Camacho repeated that Rajoy “has offered dialogue”, although Spain’s unity is out of question. In addition, she emphasised that Rajoy will never accept “breaking Spain”. The PP leader said that the Catalan President, Artur Mas, was acting “outside of democracy”. In addition, she asked the people supporting self-determination “to accept the ‘no’ from the [Spanish] Parliament”.

The President of C’s, Albert Rivera, asked the Catalan President to step down and call for early elections. Furthermore, he repeated that if the Spanish Parliament does not agree on transferring the powers, “you cannot organise the consultation vote” on Catalonia’s self-determination.  Therefore, since the CiU and ERC will have failed in “their only objective this term”, Rivera asked them to go home and call early elections.

The Spanish Constitution allows such a transfer

The Catalan Parliament is formally requesting the Spanish Parliament to approve the delegation of “the powers to authorise, call and organise a consultation referendum” to the Catalan Government, since currently is in the hands of the Spanish Executive. The Catalan Chamber can send a bill to the Spanish Parliament to discuss and approve such a request. In this case, the bill at the Spanish Parliament has to be approved by a two-thirds majority since it is an organic law (fundamental law). The bill is made of one single point, which is this aforementioned transfer of powers following Article 150.2 of the Spanish Constitution: it foresees “the transfer or delegation to the Autonomous Communities, through an organic law, of the powers regarding State matters that might be susceptible to be transferred or delegated because of their own nature”. Therefore, the Spanish Parliament could decide that the Catalan Government has the powers to organise a consultation referendum.

The Spanish Parliament’s debate to be held in March

The Catalan Parliament’s bill will be piled up among the other proposals sent by other Autonomous Communities. If the Spanish Parliament’s Board does not prioritise it, which seems likely, the bill should be discussed in September. In order to avoid such a delay, Catalan MPs will file the same bill directly to the Spanish Parliament’s register in order to speed up the process and hold the debate within the next two months. Therefore, it is likely that the bill will be debated on in March.

However, it is also very likely that the Spanish Parliament will reject it. The People’s Party (PP), which runs the Spanish Government, holds an absolute majority in the Chamber and is absolutely against the initiative. In addition, the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) is also against allowing this transfer. Both parties – PP and PSOE – hold almost 90% of the Parliament’s seats. However they are against Catalonia’s right to self-determination and do not recognise Catalonia as a political subject with the sovereignty to freely and democratically decide on its own political future.

The Catalan Parliament will approve its own law on consultation votes

If the Spanish Parliament finally closes this door, the Catalan parties defending the right to self-determination will use the new Catalan law on consultation votes as the legal framework to make the call. This new law is currently being debated at the Catalan Parliament and is expected to be approved in March. The Catalan Statute of Autonomy, which was approved by the Spanish Parliament and the Catalan people through a binding referendum in 2006, allows the Catalan Government to call consultation votes, once the corresponding law is approved.

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  • The Catalan Parliament voting the bill (by A. Moldes)

  • The Catalan Parliament voting the bill (by A. Moldes)