The Latest: Catalan lawmakers make way for independence vote
Posted September 6
MADRID — The Latest on the Catalan parliament's vote to pave the way for an independence referendum (all times local):
The Catalonia region's parliament has cleared the way for an independence vote that Spain's government contends is illegal.
Catalan lawmakers passed a controversial bill that clears the way for an Oct. 1 secession vote despite fierce resistance from the political opposition and central authorities.
The votes of 72 pro-independence lawmakers were enough to pass the so-called "referendum bill" after more than 11 hours of debate that ended with 52 opposition members of parliament walking out in protest.
Regional president Carles Puigdemont's cabinet is expected to sign the decree officially calling for the vote on a binding independence referendum.
The leader of the main opposition party, Ciudadanos (Citizens), immediately announced that the party would seek a vote of no confidence against Puigdemont to force new regional elections.
Ten hours into a tense plenary session, Catalan lawmakers are still holding a heated debate on a controversial bill that lays the groundwork for an Oct. 1 referendum on independence from Spain.
The parliament chair on Wednesday rejected complaints by opposition parties about alleged procedural flaws.
Spain's central authorities in Madrid have already asked the country's constitutional court to punish members of the regional parliament for allowing the vote, and have vowed to strike down the "referendum law" for the northeastern region as soon as it's passed. That is expected later Wednesday.
The political crisis comes after years of defiance by pro-independence supporters in Catalonia and amid criticism of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's conservative government in Madrid for letting the situation come to this.
Spain's deputy prime minister says the government has asked the country's constitutional court to nullify a parliamentary vote in Catalonia over a controversial referendum bill.
Soraya Saenz de Santamaria says there were severe flaws in the parliamentary procedures, adding that the Constitutional Court has previously ruled on the illegality of any step taken toward a referendum on Catalan secession.
She says Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has urged punitive measures to be taken against the chamber's speakers and other officials who allowed the bill to be included as part of Wednesday's tense session.
"Today's session has been an embarrassing show, a kick to democracy," Saenz de Santamaria has said in a televised press conference. "We are defending the rule of law in Spain and democracy in Catalonia."
Saenz de Santamaria also says that Spain's cabinet is ready to challenge the constitutionality of the bill in the country's top court f it is finally passed.
Tensions are running high among Catalan lawmakers as the regional parliament decided to vote on a bill that lays the ground for a controversial referendum on independence from Spain.
The referendum plan has created a deep political crisis because the country's constitution bans it. Central authorities have vowed to stop the vote.
The plenary meeting of Catalonia's parliament was halted twice because opposition lawmakers challenged the decision by a pro-independence majority to introduce the bill without allowing it to be vetted by a legal committee for clashes with Spain's constitutional laws.
After several attempts, a majority of lawmakers approved voting on the bill by skipping the legal procedures. The opposition claimed the legislative chamber was violating lawmakers' rights, and the socialist group announced it was lodging an appeal in Spain's Constitutional Court.
The vote on the bill is expected later Wednesday.
Opposition lawmakers in Catalonia are contesting a decision by the head of the regional parliament to vote on a bill that paves the way for a controversial independence referendum.
The president of the Catalan parliament, Carme Forcadell, called for a recess in Wednesday's parliamentary meeting after heated discussions erupted following a last-minute decision to hold the vote on the so-called "referendum bill."
The referendum, planned for Oct. 1, would not be recognized by Spain's central authorities, who have vowed to use all legal measures to stop it.
Pro-independence Catalan lawmakers, who hold a majority in the regional parliament, want to vote on the bill after a 2-hour window for the opposition to introduce amendments. The opposition argues that the bill should be first vetted by a legal committee because it clashes with Spain's constitutional laws.
Catalan lawmakers are voting on a bill that will allow regional authorities to officially call an Oct. 1 referendum on a split from Spain, making concrete a years-long defiance of central authorities, who see the vote as illegal.
The so-called referendum bill was included at the last minute in the agenda of Wednesday's plenary meeting of the regional parliament, and is likely to be passed by a pro-independence majority later in the day, paving the way to formalize plans for the ballot.
The vote is not recognized by the Spanish government and most political parties at the national level. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has vowed to use all legal measures to ensure that it doesn't take place.
Catalonia is a prosperous region in northeastern Spain that already enjoys ample self-government.