Expatica news

Madrid outlaws referendumsto block Basque plan

18 December 2003

MADRID – The Spanish government outlawed holding referendums Thursday in a controversial move to stop a Basque independence plan.

The Spanish parliament voted to reform the country’s penal code to make it a criminal offence to call referendums, punishable by prison.

The reform was only supported by the ruling right-wing PP and all the opposition parties abstained.

The vote in parliament was also met with noisy protest.

The law change was a move by Jose Maria Aznar’s government to stop a plan by the Basque leader Juan Jose Ibarretxe to call a referendum on his proposal to separate from the Spanish state.

The Basque Country already has a degree of autonomy, but under the plan it would have its own courts and schools as well as direct representation to the European Union.

The plan has been opposed by all the main political parties, but Ibarretxe claims it will end 30 years of terrorist violence from ETA, by making the region truly independent.

He had planned to call a referendum of Basques to seek support for his highly-controversial proposal.

Opposition parties rejected the change to the penal code and argued that it was a not only a “fraudulent law” and an abuse of the rights of the parliamentarians, but was unnecessary to try to penalise politics and it would make more problems than solutions for the Basque Country.

Before the vote, which the government won with 179 votes in favour, there were cries from opposition members of “hands up this is a robbery”. The left-wing IU party held up a placard which read: “All going to prison”.

The law change will come into effect in three months time.

[copyright EFE with Expatica]

subject: Spanish news