Dilemma for Catalan civil servants on referendum day

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Civil servants in Catalonia are facing the choice of whether or not to open public polling stations for the region’s October 1 referendum on independence from Spain.

"I think most of the people at my high school are in favor of opening up, around 70 percent," Reuters quoted Enrique Beck, a Catalan teacher from the town of Tremp as saying.

Teachers, police and administrative workers will have to choose whether to obey regional orders from the regional Catalan government in Barcelona or those of the central Spanish government in Madrid.

"We're very worried, especially regarding those in the education sector who might be asked to open up as a polling station. As civil servants, we should remain neutral," said Joan Escanilla, who chairs a civil servant union in Catalonia.

Catalonia’s parliament approved new procedure allowing the region to declare independence within 48 hours of the referendum's passage. 

Catalan lawmakers approved the change on a 72-63 vote Wednesday.

Catalonia with its four provinces has enjoyed varying degrees of autonomy since the initial establishment of a commonwealth in 1914.


In 2006, Catalonians approved a referendum promising greater autonomy, but the Constitutional Court of Spain in 2010 declared some of the articles of the statue non-valid.

In November 2015, Catalan lawmakers also voted to approve a plan for secession from Spain by 2017.

Spain’s possible orders to block voters from casting ballots in what Madrid believes to be an “illegal” process could affect voter turnout.


"The Spanish state is using these kinds of arguments to scare people," a spokesman for the Catalan government told Reuters.

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