A Catalan view of that ‘illegal’ referendum


By Xavier Solano

Catalans have voted, and have done so in defiance of the Spanish Government and the Constitutional Court that declared this consultation illegal. It is remarkable that 40,000 volunteers and over 2.3 million people defied the Court’s suspension, especially taking into account that it was known that Spain’s public prosecutor would investigate whether anyone breached the suspension.

It is moving to see people standing up for basic rights like the right to vote but it is depressing to see this happening in Spain and no EU institution or EU Member State doing anything to let this country of 7.5 million people vote. I myself voted in the Catalan Government’s Office in London after hours of queuing.

Democracy is at stake in this corner of the EU and the EU and its Member States seem to be looking away instead of speaking up and supporting the right to vote of the 2.3 million people that casted their votes on Sunday.

The Spanish Government should learn from the UK Government and negotiate with the Catalan Government a legal and binding referendum in the same way the British and Scottish governments agreed in a referendum for Scotland.

The Catalan President will try to convince the Spanish President to negotiate a political solution. It is important the Spanish government stops considering the will to vote of most of the Catalan society illegal.

The Spanish Government may be fighting for the survival of Spain -if Catalonia goes, others may follow- but declaring the will of Catalans to vote in a referendum illegal and considering prosecuting the democratically elected President of Catalonia is not an acceptable solution in a EU Member State in the 21st century

The following is a technical guide to the referendum.

Turnout: 2,300,000 votes over 5,400,000 (?) (it may look low but it isn’t…the consultation was technically illegal as it was suspended by the Spanish Constitutional Court. Voters, volunteers and organisers could be prosecuted – explanation below)


YES / YES 81%

That means YES to “I want Catalonia to be a State” and YES “I want this State to be independent”

The first one (to be a State) implies at least a federal relationship with Spain (i.e. States in the U.S.A, Germany, Australia, etc).

To be a State plus to want this State to be independent means becoming an independent country (i.e. States of the EU, etc)

YES / NO 10%

This option is for those that want Catalonia to become a federated State with Spain. It would be a step forward in terms of self-government but without breaking with Spain.

NO – 4.5%

This is for those that are happy with the status quo

Spanish reaction so far

The Spanish Justice Minister dismissed the vote as “fruitless and useless”, arguing that it had been “carried out on the margin of any legal framework”. In a statement, he added: “The government considers this to be a day of political propaganda organised by pro-independence forces and devoid of any kind of democratic validity.”

The Spanish Justice Minister also said that Spain’s public prosecutor was already investigating whether Catalan authorities breached a suspension ordered by the country’s constitutional court by using public buildings such as schools to hold the non-binding, informal vote.

What next?

The Catalan President will probably ask the Spanish Prime Minister to negotiate a legal and binding referendum. If the Spanish President refuses, the Catalan President will probably call for early Catalan Parliament elections where Parties will be free to add unilateral declaration of independence in their manifestos.

Was the consultation illegal?

The Constitutional Court (CC) accepted a petition from the Spanish Government to declare the consultation illegal on the basis to go against the Spanish Constitution. The CC suspended temporarily the consultation twice so that they have time to look at potential elements that may go against the Spanish Constitution and come up with a ruling at some point in the future. However, the temporarily suspension meant that the consultation shouldn’t have taken place.

How come it went ahead?

Technically a Constitutional Court’s suspension involves suspending a Government’s decree or a Parliament’s Act. After suspending the Catalan Government’s decree for the first consultation, the Catalan Government called for a “public participation” event but never issued a decree. In this case, since there was neither decree nor Act, there was nothing to suspend…and it is not clear what the CC actually suspended. Under this basis, the Catalan Government decided to go ahead but took a key measure, recruited 40,000 volunteers (as civil servants technically couldn’t take part in it) and asked them to take over the process.

Note: It is remarkable that 40,000 volunteers and over 2.3 million people defied the Constitutional Court’s suspension, especially taking into account that it was known that Spain’s public prosecutor would investigate whether anyone breached the suspension ordered by Spain’s constitutional court.

Who was entitled to vote?

Catalans and people living in Catalonia of 16 years of age and over. That also meant Catalans living abroad.’

This article was submitted to Newsnet Scotland by Xavier Solano, a political analyst and former Representative of the Catalan Government to the UK.