By Alyssa McMurtry
The president of Catalonia announced Wednesday that the north-eastern region of Spain will hold a referendum on independence in September 2017 -- with or without Madrid’s permission.
“We will look for an agreement [with the Spanish government] until the last possible day,” announced Carles Puigdemont, Catalan president.
“But if we get to the end of the legislature and there has been no positive response, we will be prepared to take the final step before proclaiming independence and, at the latest, we will hold a referendum the second half of next September.”
Puigdemont was speaking in the Catalan parliament as part of debates prior to a vote of confidence he will face on Thursday.
In June, the far-left, separatist CUP party, which is needed to form a majority in the Catalan parliament, refused to back the 2016 budget. However, after Puigdemont’s referendum announcement, CUP party leaders hinted that they would support him in Thursday’s vote to avoid fresh elections in the region.
In September 2015, Catalan separatist parties (the CUP and Together for Yes) won a majority in the Catalan parliament. Since then, the independence parties passed a motion which aimed to prepare Catalonia for a split from Spain within 18 months.
The independence motion was subsequently annulled by Spain’s Constitutional Court, which warned the Catalan leaders not to move forward with the illegal plan.
Madrid has yet to respond to the referendum announcement but Spain’s acting government, led by Mariano Rajoy, has repeatedly promised Spaniards that Catalonia will not hold a referendum similar to those of Scotland or Quebec.
Opponents of a referendum in Catalonia -- such as Rajoy’s Popular Party, the Socialist Party and the Ciudadanos parties -- argue that it would be against the Spanish constitution, that one region of Spain is not allowed to make a decision which would affect the entire country.
In November 2014, the separatists went through with a symbolic, non-binding referendum, despite the fact that the Spanish Constitutional Court had suspended it.
Former Catalan President Artur Mas, along with other high-ranking Catalan separatists, now faces charges of disobedience, perverting justice, misuse of public funds and abuse of power.