[JURIST] The Spanish Constitutional Court [official website] on Thursday suspended [judgment, PDF, in Spanish] the Catalan independence referendum. The Catalan Parliament [official website], the region’s ruling coalition, passed the referendum law [Guardian report] on Wednesday despite recent tensions between the coalition and the Spanish government. The rapid action taken by the court forbids the Catalan Parliament from ignoring or avoiding the court’s suspension, appointing election officials, creating any record-keeping system for the referendum vote or taking any action geared towards promoting the referendum. The court also warned the Catalan Parliament of the potential criminal ramifications for failing to follow the court’s order. Earlier Thursday, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy [official profile] said [Reuters report] that he asked the court to suspend the referendum, arguing that the Spanish Constitution states that the nation is “indivisible.” The Catalan government has stated [Telegraph report] that they will press on despite the court’s suspension. The court will now move to hear arguments concerning whether or not the referendum itself is unconstitutional.
The Catalonia independence movement has gathered momentum in recent years following the economic crisis in the country that began in 2008. In 2015 the Constitutional Court of Spain declared unconstitutional [JURIST report] a resolution by the Parliament of Catalonia that proposed a plan for the region’s independence from Spain by the end of this year. In September of 2015 the High Court of Justice of Catalonia summoned [JURIST report] Catalonia President Artur Mas over his involvement in the 2014 independence referendum. In 2014 Mas signed a decree [JURIST report] calling for a referendum on secession and independence from Spain, inciting confrontation from Spain’s central government in Madrid. In February 2014 Spain’s parliament rejected [JURIST report] Catalonia’s proposed referendum, which asked voters if they wanted Catalonia to become a state, and, in the case of an affirmative response, if they wanted this state to be independent. When Catalonia proceeded with the referendum, the Constitutional Court held the independence vote to be unconstitutional [JURIST report].