efe-epaMadrid

Catalonia's regional Parliament, in the absence of any opposition lawmakers, early on Friday approved a law intended to transform that northeastern Spanish region into an independent republic.

The move comes shortly after Spain's Constitutional Court (TC) on Thursday blocked the law passed by the Catalonian Parliament approving a controversial independence referendum considered unconstitutional by the Spanish state, along with the decree signed by the regional government setting the vote for Oct. 1.

Independence-minded lawmakers - in the majority in the regional parliament - approved the law in an "fast-track" manner over the protests of the constitutionalist opposition, the members of which absented themselves from the chamber during the process.

Despite approving the independence law, its text establishes that it will only enter into force if the referendum called for Oct. 1 is held and if the "yes" to independence vote wins.

In that case, an alternative legal framework to the prevailing Spanish one would be created in which Catalonia would become "a legal, democratic and social republic" and whose "head of state" would be the president of the Generalitat, or Parliament.

Passage of the law redoubles the challenge to the Spanish state posed by Catalonia and although no "Catalonian constitution" has been approved, it establishes that the local rules and regulations prevailing in the northeastern region at the time of entry into force of the law will continue, that regional elections would be held and that a constitution would be drafted and ratified by referendum.

Spain's Constitutional Court (TC) on Thursday suspended the law passed by the Catalonian Parliament approving the controversial independence referendum considered unconstitutional by the Spanish state, along with the decree signed by the regional government setting the vote for Oct. 1.

The TC agreed to hear the four appeals by the Spanish government against the regulations on the referendum approved on Wednesday by the independence-minded majority in the Catalonian Parliament and political authorities, a situation that means that the referendum is automatically suspended until the court rules upon the matter.

"What is not legal is not democratic," Premier Mariano Rajoy argued on Thursday in remarks to the press presenting the appeals.

He added that he will defend "the rule of law" and will do everything necessary - "without ruling out anything" - to prevent the secessionist move from going forward.

"In Spain, one may be independence-minded. What may not be done, and will not be done, at least while I am prime minister, is to bypass our democratic norms to achieve it," he asserted.

The Attorney General's Office, meanwhile, announced that a new legal case would be brought against the head of the regional Catalonian government and all its members for approving the controversial independence referendum.

Jose Manuel Maza named Catalonian president Carles Puigdemont and all members of the pro-separatist regional coalition government as implicated in the inquiry less than 24 hours after the autonomous parliament approved the bill paving the way for an independence poll on Oct. 1.

The Catalonian government dismissed Maza's announcement, insisting that it changed absolutely nothing: "We are going to carry on ahead," said regional government spokesman Jordi Turrull.

The Spanish Council of State (CE), the country's top consultative organ, considers the Catalonian law to be unconstitutional "in the highest degree," noting that calling a referendum is the exclusive responsibility of the Spanish state and, thus, neither the Parliament nor the autonomous governments have the authority to do so.