MADRID — The Latest on the Catalan government’s bid to hold an independence referendum (all times local):
Spanish media are reporting that the country’s top court has preventively suspended the call for a referendum on Catalonia’s independence after accepting an appeal by central authorities in Madrid.
The move was widely expected after Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced the government was challenging both a controversial bill meant to legitimize the independence vote and a decree by the regional Catalan government summoning voters for the Oct. 1 ballot.
According to court regulations, the suspension lasts for 5 months while judges come up with a ruling.
The pro-independence coalition ruling in Catalonia, a prosperous region in northeastern Spain, claims that the universal right to self-determination overrules Spain’s laws.
Political parties in Catalonia’s parliament are engaged in a game of cat-and-mouse as opponents of the region’s independence from Spain keep derailing efforts by secessionists to open a debate on issues related to a planned referendum.
Thursday’s parliamentary session was repeatedly held up as anti-independence parties tabled motions which required lengthy discussions on procedural technicalities.
The parliament was scheduled to debate a law that would function as the transitional constitution of a new Catalan republic if local people vote “yes” to independence on Oct. 1.
Meanwhile, Spain’s national government in Madrid is throwing legal obstacles in the way of Catalonia’s breakaway ambitions, asking the Constitutional Court to rule on the legality of the ballot. The court may issue a decision after a meeting later Thursday.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy says Spain’s government is asking the country’s constitutional court to suspend a bid by leaders in Catalonia to hold a referendum on independence from Spain on Oct. 1.
Rajoy made the announcement after an urgent meeting with members of his cabinet. He said the vote is illegal and an attack against Spain’s and Catalonia’s institutional order.
In a televised appearance, the conservative leader said the vote doesn’t have the democratic protections needed to be considered a referendum and promised it would not take place.
Rajoy also branded a parliamentary showdown on Wednesday to approve the referendum’s legal framework a “political perversion” by the leaders of the Catalan government.
Spain’s top prosecutor says criminal suits are being lodged to prosecute Catalan officials responsible for scheduling a vote on independence that authorities see as breaching the country’s top laws.
Chief state prosecutor Jose Manuel Maza says two different lawsuits are in the works, one that seeks to punish members of Catalonia’s parliament who allowed the debate and vote on the legal framework of the planned Oct. 1 referendum, and a separate one against the executive branch of the regional government, whose members officially called the referendum.
He said the officials could be charged, among other things, with disobedience, abuse of power and embezzlement.
The state prosecutor’s office has also instructed officials and police forces in Catalonia — the northeastern region whose capital is Barcelona — to investigate and stop any actions taken toward the celebration of the referendum.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s office says members of his cabinet are meeting Thursday to react to plans by Catalan leaders who have scheduled a vote on the region’s secession from Spain.
Rajoy is also discussing the crisis separately with leaders of the two main opposition parties, his office announced, in an effort to project political unity against the separatists’ defiance.
The government is seeking to stop the Oct. 1 vote by appealing to the country’s constitutional court, which has previously ruled that a referendum can only be called with the approval of central authorities. Other possible measures have not been disclosed.
Judges in Spain’s top court are also considering a request by Rajoy to punish members of the regional Catalan parliament who on Wednesday allowed the passing of a legal framework for the referendum.