This weekend, Catalans are holding a symbolic regional independence vote, in defiance of the Spanish government’s ban. The vote is now more about freedom of expression and polls look set to draw upward of 1.5 million people.
RT reports: Artur Mas, the Catalan president, has remained defiant in the face of the exceedingly draconian bans by Madrid on any show of support for secession. The Catalan leader swore to defend his people’s “right to decide” in the matter.
Not only were the Iberian region’s claims for an official referendum shot down, the Madrid government has now banned any symbolic public show of support for the measure as well.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy earlier said: “The law will be enforced. There will be no referendum that calls into question the sovereignty of the Spanish nation. There will be no division of Spanish territory while I am prime minister.”
When it first became clear by the end of September that there would be no official referendum, this firmly placed the large political event in the category of “opinion poll,” rather than the start of a real secession process.
The country’s top constitutional court on November 4 came to another unanimous ruling, effectively cancelling the second legal challenge posed by the Catalans. The government then ordered a ban not only on the non-binding polls, but on any show of support for independence at all – symbolic or otherwise.
On that day a press conference was held, where the regional government’s spokesman Francesc Homs said preparations for the November 9 vote would go ahead, despite the ban, calling the polling a “participative process.”
Exercising ‘freedom of expression’
The term used by Homs underscores the nature of what’s happening: citizens will be able to vote simply by showing up and registering; the vote will not be officially convened – meaning that municipalities can reserve the right not to hold them. Some have compared the process with Catalonia’s ‘march of the millions’.
And according to Reuters, it’s still not clear whether ballot boxes will be housed in official facilities, which may include schools and town halls.
Increasingly the mood isn’t that of challenging decisions legally, but rather of exercising “freedom of speech” and fundamental rights for things like public gatherings and flying lanterns.
Despite even a ban on “preparatory activities,” Homs said the voting would go ahead despite “all of the consequences” this may entail.
Homs reminded reporters that several days previously he warned that “we were about to pay homage to absurdity. If the Constitutional Court is looking to ban citizens’ freedom of expression, it obviously won’t be able to.”