Article published at Financial Times, 3rd November 2016
Ruling confirms law allowing suspension of pro-independence politicians
Spain is set for a further escalation in the clash of wills between Madrid and the restive region of Catalonia after the country’s constitutional court approved new powers to act against public officials who do not comply with its decisions.
The verdict confirms that the court can use a law that is seen as directed at the Catalan independence movement.
Catalonia’s parliament, controlled by a pro-secession coalition, wants to approve measures to lead the north-eastern region to separate from Spain, including an independence referendum next year. But the constitutional court has already ruled against secessionist steps by the regional parliament, including a pro-independence resolution.
Mariano Rajoy, Spain’s prime minister whose second term in office started last week, is strongly opposed to any Catalan breakaway. Legislation approved last year by members of his centre-right Popular party gave the constitutional court the right to fine or suspend officials if they defied one of its orders.
The court powers “guarantee that nobody can fail to comply with the rulings of the constitutional court and is a very clear message”, Xavier García Albiol, a Popular party legislator in Catalonia, said at the time.
PP lawmakers were alone in backing the legislation. Thursday’s judgment by the constitutional court, which voted 8 to 3 in favour, upholds the validity of that legislation.
The Catalan government reacted angrily. Oriol Junqueras, vice president of Catalonia, said: “With today’s decision by the constitutional court, the Spanish state is again showing that it is far from good democratic practices that characterize any western country.”
The court decision means that officials in Catalonia could be suspended if they pursue measures to help the region secede
One such official is Carme Forcadell, president of the Catalan parliament. Last month Catalonia’s highest court accepted a request to investigate charges of disobedience and perversion of justice against Ms Forcadell.
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