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Catalonia’s Mas names committee to oversee independence vote

3 October 2014 14:35 (UTC+04:00)
Catalonia’s Mas names committee to oversee independence vote

By Bloomberg

Catalan President Artur Mas named a committee to oversee the region's proposed referendum on independence from Spain, risking a breach of national law.

"We are convinced that it's possible for us to do it," Mas's government spokesman, Francesc Homs, told reporters last night. The decree with the appointments was published in the region's official gazette today.

The electoral steering committee is authorized by a regional law the government used to call the Nov. 9 referendum. That legislation was blocked by Spain's Constitutional Court on Sept. 29. Lawyers for the national government in Madrid are studying considering a legal response to try and stop the committee from being formed.

Two weeks after Scotland voted against independence from the U.K. after 307 years of union, Mas and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy are at loggerheads over whether the Spanish region can pursue its own vote following the court's action. Rajoy has said his government is ready to use all legal tools at its disposal to stop the ballot.

Mas is due to meet today with the leaders of the three other parties backing the referendum to discuss their strategy in the wake of the Constitutional Court's ruling.

Legal Reprisals

The Catalan leader's challenge is to maintain pressure on Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to enter negotiations and satisfy nationalist groups that want to push on with the ballot, without triggering legal reprisals.

While Mas has said he won't break the law to deliver the vote, the pro-independence Catalan National Assembly called demonstrations outside the region's 947 city halls on Sept. 30 urging him to defy the Constitutional Court ruling.

Mas's decision to set up the electoral committe contrasts with the withdrawal of the regional government's advertising campaign promoting the Nov. 9 ballot. Esquerra Republicana, the junior ally of Mas's CiU party in the Catalan parliament, has vowed to continue its campaign, saying the will of the Catalan people carries more weight than the ruling of the court.

The region's 193 billion-euro ($244 billion) economy is almost exactly the same size as Scotland's, while its population is 7.5 million compared with 5.3 million Scots. Scotland, though, makes up less than 10 percent of the U.K. economy while Catalonia represents about twice that proportion for Spain.

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