Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Wall Street Journal:'Catalonia Asks Madrid for Power to Hold Referendum' #eu #politics #usa


The Wall Street Journal:'Catalonia Asks Madrid for Power to Hold Referendum' #eu #politics #usa

dijous, 16 gener de 2014

Resolution Offers Madrid Chance to Negotiate Conditions of Vote on Secession

By DAVID ROMÁN | The Wall Street Journal

Pro-independence protesters shout slogans in front of Catalonia's regional parliament as lawmakers voted inside, in Barcelona, Spain, on Thursday. Reuters

Catalonia's parliament asked the Spanish central government for authority to hold a referendum on whether the wealthy region should secede from Spain, a request immediately rebuffed in the latest jousting over a vote planned for Nov. 9.

Thursday's resolution to formally seek approval from the central government offered Madrid an opportunity to negotiate the conditions of a vote. But a spokesman said there had been no change in Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's vow to bar any balloting on the issue, which Madrid says would be unconstitutional. The regional government in Catalonia has said it plans to pursue the referendum regardless of Madrid's position.

The threat of Catalan secession has plagued Mr. Rajoy since the regional president, Artur Mas, first proposed a referendum in late 2012. Mr. Mas made the move after Mr. Rajoy rejected his plan to reduce the tax revenue that Catalonia transfers to poorer Spanish regions. A grass-roots Catalan movement in favor of independence has since gained strength, mobilizing hundreds of thousands of people in street demonstrations.

Marta Rovira, a member of the Catalan parliament for pro-independence party ERC, told lawmakers before Thursday's resolution that the request was meant to bolster the legal case for polling citizens about independence, with or without Madrid's approval.

"There are people who think this step is pointless, because they see it is pretty clear that the response will be negative," Ms. Rovira said. "But as the Spanish parliament declines to negotiate, this will only expose its stance to the world, and give us legitimacy to stay our course."

Carles Boix, a Princeton University political science professor who advises the Catalan government, said the resolution left open the possibility for both sides to avoid a confrontation. He noted that Spanish law empowers regional governments to hold nonbinding consultations, as opposed to referendums.

"The plan is not to hold a vote and then declare independence the next day," Mr. Boix said in a telephone interview from New Jersey. "Many things can happen beforehand, and even after a vote there would be room for discussion."

A spokeswoman for Mr. Rajoy said Thursday that even a nonbinding vote on independence would be illegal because such consultations by regional governments are limited to issues over which they have authority, and secession isn't one of them.

Thursday's resolution passed by a vote of 87 to 43, with leftist deputies joining lawmakers of the regional governing coalition in favor and most lawmakers representing Spain's national parties opposed. Three members of a small pro-independence bloc abstained on the grounds that no permission from Madrid is needed to hold a referendum.

Parties representing a majority in the regional parliament agreed in December on a referendum date and questions: Voters would be asked whether Catalonia should to be a "state," and those who mark their ballots "yes" will be asked whether that state should be independent.

Several recent polls indicate that nearly half the region's five million voters would say "yes" to both questions, and roughly one-third would vote no. The rest are undecided, and the risk that an independent Catalonia would be left out of the European Union, as recent statements by EU officials indicate, is widely viewed as a strong deterrent to secession.

Speaking in parliament Thursday, Albert Rivera, leader of a small, anti-independence party, said that Mr. Mas and his allies are setting up Catalan pro-independence forces for disappointment.

"All you're doing is pitting Catalans against each other," Mr. Rivera said, addressing Mr. Mas. "In the end, you'll have nothing left to do other than leave [office] and call an election."

Write to David Román at

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