Spanish Court Suspends Catalonia's Independence Vote
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Spain's highest court has struck down plans by the Northeast region of Catalonia to hold an independence referendum. Catalan leaders say they're going to hold the vote anyway. From Madrid, Lauren Frayer reports.
LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: Inspired by Scotland's independence vote two weeks ago, Catalonia has set its own referendum on secession. The Northeast region has its own language and culture and has long sought autonomy from Madrid. The referendum would be nonbinding, but the Spanish government still considers it illegal because any such vote must be nationwide.
PRIME MINISTER MARIANO RAJOY: (Speaking Spanish).
FRAYER: The sovereignty of the Spanish people is whole, says Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. No one part is allowed to make decisions that affect everyone; the Constitution says our unity is indivisible. Last night Rajoy took that argument to the country's highest court and won - at least for the moment. The Constitutional Court has ordered Catalonia to suspend preparations for its vote until the court rules on its legality; that could take months. Meanwhile, Catalans are printing ballots and preparing polling stations. The November 9 vote is six weeks away.
PRESIDENT ARTUR MAS: There is no Plan B. There is no plan B because the only plan is to vote. There are different ways to vote, but the plan is to vote.
FRAYER: Catalan President Artur Mas anticipated Madrid's opposition. Even before last night's court ruling, he told reporters he'd find a way using local Catalan laws or online voting to go ahead with the referendum.
MAS: If in Madrid they think that only using the legal frameworks they can stop the political will of the majority of the Catalan people, they are wrong. It's a big mistake.
FRAYER: Polls show a large majority of Catalans do want to vote.
(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD CHEERING)
FRAYER: Many of them took to the streets of the Catalan capital, Barcelona, overnight, and more pro-independence rallies are scheduled today. Meanwhile, the Spanish government is reportedly readying 4,500 new police recruits to replace local Catalan police if they refuse orders to block polling stations, and Spain's post office may refuse to deliver the ballots. For NPR News, I'm Lauren Frayer in Madrid. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.