Published: Wed, September 13, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

'Goodbye Spain': thousands rally for Catalan independence before vote

'Goodbye Spain': thousands rally for Catalan independence before vote

The Constitutional Court of Spain has suspended another referendum law ratified in the regional parliament of Catalonia as Madrid struggles to block a vote of independence in the region planned for earlier next month.

Over 700 municipal leaders pledged to help facilitate the vote, although the mayor of Barcelona has not yet taken a definitive position.

The state prosecutor's office said the chiefs of the three judicial police forces in Catalonia, including the regional Mossos police force, are being briefed on their legal obligation to stop any actions towards holding a referendum. "When we have to go and testify, we will say everything we have been saying for days, that we owe it to our people to keep working to make sure they can freely express themselves at the ballot box". They argue that Spain's 1978 constitution bars regional governments from calling independence referendums.

Spain's state prosecutor ordered local authorities to investigate 712 pro-independence mayors in Catalonia on Wednesday, and for police to detain mayors who do not cooperate.

However, the pro-independence coalition ruling Catalonia has vowed to hold the vote despite the prohibition and has asked the 947 mayors in the northeastern region to provide facilities for the plebiscite. However, the willing mayors represent less than half of the region's voting-age population.

Some of those who haven't lent their support, like Barcelona's Mayor Ada Colau, have been the target of public protests organized by pro-independence groups.

Such assurance is unlikely to materialize, and without Barcelona's participation, the referendum would lack legitimacy.

Felipe said the constitution "will prevail" against any attempt to break Spain apart.

The Spanish government is trying to stop the planned October 1 ballot through the courts.

"If anyone urges you to go to a polling station, don't go, because the referendum can't take place, it would be an absolutely illegal act", the prime minister said.

In his first comments on the growing political crisis, Felipe said the rights of all Spaniards will be upheld against "whoever steps outside constitutional and statutory law".

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