Catalonia on Tuesday called off plans to hold a referendum on independence from Spain scheduled for next month. The news of the cancellation of the polls was reportedly welcomed by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.
Catalonia leader Artur Mas reportedly said that there will be a "consultation of citizens" on Nov. 9 instead, and the results will be declared on Nov. 10. The Spanish government reportedly made attempts to block the independence vote by urging the constitutional court to declare the referendum illegal stating that the referendum wasn't "compatible with the Spanish constitution." The court decided that it will hear the government’s case, an act that automatically suspended the referendum.
"The Catalan government maintains its goal of holding a referendum on Nov. 9, it means there will be polling stations open, with ballot boxes and ballots," Mas said, according to The Associated Press. "It will depend on the people for a strong enough participation to show that people here want to vote."
Rajoy had reportedly opposed the plan for a vote on whether Catalonia, a wealthy northeastern region of about 7.5 million people that pays more taxes than any other region in the country, should break away from Spain.
"The fact that the referendum is not taking place is excellent news," Rajoy said at an event in Madrid, according to Reuters. "We need to go over certain things, we need to dialogue, we need to talk. A lot of us want to live together because we've done many things together."
According to Agence France-Presse, Mas had previously hinted that if the independence vote was blocked he would call for an early regional election.
“Early elections are the last chance left for Artur Mas. But Mas is in the hands of the independence party Esquerra Republicana who don’t want early elections,” Alicia Sánchez Camacho, a spokesperson for Spain’s national ruling party, said, according to Euro News.
Members of the left-wing Catalan Republican Left, or ERC, reportedly pressured Mas to defy the court's orders. "There is only one path: that parliament make an immediate declaration of independence,” ERC said, in a statement, according to The Guardian.