Catalonia will push forward with a planned November vote on independence, leader Artur Mas said on Tuesday, but in a modified way in an attempt to skirt restrictions imposed by the Spanish courts.
The poll will be open to Catalans aged 16 and over and organised by volunteers, without any formal electoral roll. Mas touted it as an alternative means for Catalans to express their opinion after Spain’s constitutional court suspended all campaigning and preparations for a planned referendum.
“On November 9 there will be a consultation, there will be ballots and ballot boxes,” said Mas. Unlike the planned referendum, which was originally made possible by a decree passed in the Catalan parliament, the poll would be held under “pre-existing frameworks” that allowed for citizen participation, he said.
The referendum was suspended after the court decided unanimously to hear a challenge by the central government. Caught between defying the court’s order and pro-independence parties pushing for the vote to go ahead regardless of its legality, Mas initially vowed to push forward.
On Tuesday he said the vote would have to be done “in a different form from what we had planned”, but insisted that it was not a step backwards. “Just the opposite. This government is committed to celebrating the referendum on November 9,” he said.
A poll this month showed that 23% of Catalans supported the idea of pressing ahead with an illegal referendum. The poll, done for Metroscopia and published in El País, found that 45% wanted the regional government to comply with the constitutional court’s orders.
Mas acknowledged that the non-binding vote would not be able to offer a definitive answer as to whether Catalans wanted independence from Spain, and he hinted that early elections could follow later. “November 9 is a lead-up to the definitive answer,” he said. “It’s clear that the most logical, final response is elections. That is what they fear in Madrid.”