Key Parts of the Approved Referendum Law, in English

Sept. 7th, 2017

The referendum law that sanctions the October 1st vote was passed yesterday in the Parliament of Catalonia. The majority independence coalition formed by 'Together for Yes' (Junts pel Si) and 'Popular Unity Candidacy' (CUP) passed the motion, while opposition parties abstained from the vote. 

The following is the published proceedings of today's session. The preamble of the document cites the United Nations' Declaration of Human Rights as the basis for "the right for direct and indirect political participation of citizens" (pg. 3) and "the right to express opinions, thoughts, and association" ( pg. 3). The International Justice Tribune is also cited as the authority for which "no international custom or order exists which prohibits the exercise of 'new practices' [i.e., of self-determination]". 

Translated in full here is the last few paragraphs of the preamble which lays out the reason for voting. Notes are included in brackets.   

"The approval of this law, then, is the maximum expression of the democratic mandate that emerged from the elections of September 27, 2015, in which the decision of the Parliament of Catalonia took to culminate the process of the call for a referendum of self-determination, with historic legitimacy and the judicial and institutional traditions of the Catalan people - only interrupted over the centuries by armed forces - with the right of self-determination consecrated by international legislation and jurisprudence, and the principles of popular sovereignty and respect towards human rights as basis for all judicial orders.

The act of sovereignty which entails the approval of this law [of referendum] is the necessary decision in order to be able to exercise the right of Catalans to decide the future of Catalonia, especially after the rupture of the Spanish constitutional pact of 1978 that represents the partial annulment and complete denaturalization of the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia of 2006 - approved by the Parliament of Catalonia and in a referendum by the people of Catalonia - based on the verdict 31/2010 of the Constitutional Court. [The Court struck down reforms to Catalonia's Statute of Autonomy, citing the indissolubility of Spain. For more information on the Statute of 2006, see my article.] 

This law represents the democratic response to the frustration generated by the last attempt promoted by a wide-majority of this Parliament to guarantee the full recognition, representation, and participation in the political, social, economical, and cultural life within the Spanish state without any type of discrimination for the Catalan people. 

In the previous process, all efforts have been made to find an agreed way so that the Catalan people could freely decide its future. The Parliament, attending to the majority mandate of the people of Catalonia, assumes the full sovereign representation of citizens once all methods of dialogue and negotiation with the [Spanish]state have been exhausted. 

When taking the transcendental decision of approving this law, the Parliament of Catalonia expresses the majority will of the people, from which its powers emanate, making use of legal and democratic representation with the goal of putting the decision concerning the political future of the country into the hands of Catalans, with the utmost democratic tool which we have: the vote.¨

Some important points to note in the text itself: 

  • The law establishes a "special legal authority" to regulate and guarantee the process of referendum. All persons, authorities are covered under this authority (Chapter II, Article 3, 2 and 3).
  • In the case where a majority votes for "yes" towards independence, Parliament will publish its results within two days and will meet to carry out the formal declaration of independence (Chapter 3, Article 4, 4). If a majority votes for "no", elections will be immediately and automatically called for (Chapter III, Article 4, 4). 
  • The vote will be managed by the Electoral Syndicate of Catalonia, the electoral commissions of demarcation, the "electoral tables" (that comprises citizens who receive votes, sort them, and conduct recounts), and the electoral commission of Catalonia. These functioning bodies will be responsible for, among other things, the impartiality of voting, the administration within every voting district, and logistics pertaining to voting materials and transportation (Chapter VII). 

The reaction from the Spanish central government is expected to come today, with the Constitutional Court to declare the law 'illegal'. However, the approval of this law means that the process towards the referendum is officially underway, with no signs of faltering from the Catalan government.