Madrid: Artur Mas, the president of Spain’s Catalonia autonomous community, held a press conference Tuesday morning to explain his decision to call off the proposed independence referendum for the region.

The referendum was due to have been held Nov 9, but following a meeting with the pro-independence parties Monday evening, Mas decided to call off the vote.

In the press conference Mas said that instead of the referendum, which the Spanish Constitutional Court had ruled a fortnight ago had to be suspended in the wake of the appeal by the Spanish central government which considers the vote to be unconstitutional, there would be a “process of participation by the citizens”, Xinhua reported.

“The government will continue, against what some might think and we will do so with our own means, in a correct, organised and legal manner,” said Mas, calling for a large turnout.

“The vote Nov 9 is the vote prior to the definitive vote, which is why it is so important,” he said.

The news that the referendum had been cancelled had been greeted by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy earlier in the day with the phrase that the decision was “excellent news”. Mas, mocked Rajoy’s words, saying that “sometimes excellent news only lasts for a few hours”.

Nevertheless, this vote, which Mas said would count on the help of “20,000 volunteers” and the collaboration of 920 local authorities, will not use an electoral census and as such its result will merely serve as a barometer of Catalan public opinion and will in no way be binding.

Last weekend, Mas had assured that he would go ahead with the vote, saying the parties in favour of the referendum had to “decide if they were part of the solution or part of the problem”.

The Catalan regional government has fallen behind in the time-scale on several issues such as preparing electoral lists and the electoral census and as a result any vote Nov 9 would have lacked the necessary guarantees.

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