After an eleven-hour heated session of the Catalonian parliament on Wednesday regional MPs passed the law that paves the way for the independence referendum, now officially called by the secessionists for 1 October.
The legislation was approved with the votes of pro-independence parties Junts pel Sí andCUP, who between them have an overall majority in the parliament. Fifty-two MPs, representing the opposition, the Partido Popular (PPC) the Catalonian Socialist party (PSC) and Ciudadanos, walked out before the vote took place, accusing the ruling parties of being antidemocratic and violating their rights as members of the house.
Earlier in the day the secessionists had bypassed the rules of their own parliament by opting to push through the law as an urgent piece of legislation. This left the opposition without the chance to propose amendments or to call for a clarification of the law’s compliance with the regional authority’s statutes and the Spanish constitution.
Once the law had been passed and officially published, the president of the Catalonian government Carles Puigdemont signed the decree calling the referendum for 1 October. The question asked will be “Do you want Catalonia to be an independent state in the form of a republic? If yes wins, the law passed on Wednesday establishes that a republic could be declared on 4 October.
Lluís Corominas of Junts pel Sí said that the vote would be “binding” and that no minimum turnout would be required to go ahead with the proposed rupture from Spain.
On Thursday the regional government began a campaign to encourage citizens to take part in the vote.
Madrid was quick to respond with its rejection of the legislation. On Wednesday evening the central government had already filed a complaint with the Constitutional court asking it to overturn the law.
The chief state prosecutor, José Manuel Maza, said on Thursday that two criminal lawsuits would be brought, one against the speaker of the Catalonian parliament, Carme Forcadell, and others responsible for the running of the house for allowing the law to be passed. The other will be against the members of the Catalonian government for calling an illegal referendum.
Meanwhile prosecution departments in Catalonia have been instructed to investigate anyone seen to be taking part in the organisation of the vote.
Deputy prime minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría described Wednesday’s events as an “embarrassing spectacle for any democrat to watch”. What happened, she said, was reminiscent of “totalitarian regimes”.