Spain State Adviser Backs Move to Block Catalonia Independence Vote

Catalan pro-independence demonstrators gather at Catalunya square during a rally in Barcelona October 19, 2014. Reuters/Albert Gee

The Spanish state adviser on Thursday backed a veto of a watered-down Catalan vote on independence planned for Nov. 9, making it likely the government will try and have the "consultation of citizens" blocked by the courts.

Spain's Council of State on Thursday unanimously decided the government should ask the Constitutional Court to declare the vote illegal, a spokeswoman for the consultative body said.

The wealthy northeastern region of Catalonia in October dropped plans for a non-binding Nov. 9 referendum on independence from Spain after the court declared such a vote against the constitution.

Catalan leader Artur Mas instead announced plans for an alternative consultation on the same day, equally non-binding, and open to anyone who wants to cast their ballot. It will be marshalled largely by volunteers.

Although Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and politicians in Catalonia have called for dialogue over the region's status after the initial referendum plans were abandoned, tensions are still simmering before the Nov. 9 alternative vote.

"We've seen, I don't know what to call it, the intention to hold something similar, a pseudo-vote, which does not meet the norms of a democracy," Rajoy told a news conference on Thursday.

The prime minister had already threatened to try and have the "consultation of citizens" blocked if it were found to be illegal.

Rajoy said cabinet ministers would decide on the government's next move, and whether to indeed take matters to the Constitutional Court, on Friday. It's unclear how the central government would enforce a block on the consultation if Catalan leaders decide to press ahead regardless.