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Tags: catalan | spain | vote | defy

Catalans Prepare to Open Polls in Defiance of Spanish Court

Saturday, 08 November 2014 08:56 AM EST

 In more than 900 towns across Catalonia, an army of volunteers is preparing to open polling stations tomorrow and offer compatriots a vote on independence in defiance of Spain’s central government and its highest court.

The informal ballot, stripped of legal validity by a Constitutional Court ruling in September, poses two questions: Do you want Catalonia to be a state? And should that state be independent? Separatists led by regional president Artur Mas aim to win a majority in favor of breaking up Spain and use that mandate to force Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to negotiate.

The runup to the vote has been marked by legal salvos: Rajoy’s government reminded public officials in Catalonia of their obligation to respect the Constitutional Court ban as Mas had an appeal to that ruling thrown out by the Supreme Court. The Catalan government talked of filing a lawsuit against Spain in an international court while an activist group in Madrid responded with its own suit to state prosecutors demanding police halt the balloting.

“The Spanish government is being really short-sighted,” said Alex Quiroga, a lecturer in Spanish history at Newcastle University in England. “Continually saying ‘no’ and appealing to the Constitutional Court doesn’t help. It’s clear that only through negotiation can they solve the problem.”

Bonds Volatile

Spanish bonds are likely to remain volatile through the vote and in the political maneuvering to follow, JPMorgan analysts Gianluca Salford and Marco Protopapa said in a Nov. 5 note. They advised clients to buy Irish government bonds instead of Spanish paper to avoid potential losses.

Mas’s separatist ally Oriol Junqueras, who leads the Esquerra Republicana party in the regional parliament, said investors should open talks with the Catalan authorities as soon as possible to establish how Spain’s sovereign debt will be honored should there be a breakup. He said Catalonia might shoulder as much as 21 percent or as little as 9 percent of Spain’s 1 trillion euros ($1.2 billion) of public debt.

Catalonia is home to 7.4 million people in the northeast corner of the Iberian peninsula. It has the largest economy of Spain’s 17 autonomous regions: an annual output of 193 billion euros. That’s about the same as Finland or Scotland, where in September voters opted to remain part of the U.K. in an independence referendum.

Ian Duncan, a member of the European Parliament for the U.K. Conservative Party, will be the spokesman for international observers, a press official for the Catalonia government said today. Duncan, who supported Scotland remaining part of the U.K. in that vote, is due to speak at 5 p.m. in Barcelona.

Catalan Economy

Gross domestic product per capita in Catalonia is 17 percent above the European Union average while Spain’s as a whole is 5 percent below. Catalonia-based companies make up about 12 percent of Spain’s benchmark stock index, the Ibex.

The ballot is set to take place as the Spanish political establishment faces its biggest crisis since the return of democracy 36 years ago. With unemployment at 24 percent, second- highest in Europe after Greece, and corruption allegations eating away at the government’s moral authority, the anti- bailout Podemos party surged into the lead in two opinion polls the past week.

If the voting booths do open, that would constitute another blow to Rajoy who has insisted for months that the legal hurdles he’s thrown up would prevent it. Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria last week called the Catalan plans a “perversion of democracy.”

Volunteers Assisting

To get around the court ban, Mas is deploying more than 40,000 people who have volunteered to assist, allow public employees to remain at arm’s length from the vote. Some have volunteered to assist on Sunday in a personal capacity.

Mas had sought to win the right for the region’s employees to participate, and for public property such as schools to be used, in his appeal that the Supreme Court rejected on Nov. 6.

Thousands of Catalans are ready to set up ballot boxes across the region anyway in the expectation that perhaps millions will cast their ballots.

© Copyright 2023 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

In more than 900 towns across Catalonia, an army of volunteers is preparing to open polling stations tomorrow and offer compatriots a vote on independence in defiance of Spain's central government and its highest court.
catalan, spain, vote, defy
Saturday, 08 November 2014 08:56 AM
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