Catalonia independence: 80% vote to split from Spain

But voter turnout was seriously low for the second referendum deemed illegal by Madrid

Millions of people voted on the issue of Catalonian independence on Sunday, with more than 80 per cent of people electing for a split from Spain in a bid to carve out a new Mediterranean nation.

But the vote itself was a watered down version of a referendum due to the legal restrictions put in place by the Spanish government, resulting in it being referred to by many as a mock-vote.

With 88 per cent of votes counted, results showed that more than two million people took to the polls of the potential 5.4 million voters, with around 1.6 million voting in favour of independence for the north-eastern region of Spain.

It is the second vote of its kind in Spain and has not been recognised by the central government. Catalan politicians opted for the watered-down poll after plans to hold an official referendum was declared potentially illegal by the Spanish and suspended by Spain’s constitutional court.

 

But many saw the vote as a symbolic referendum on independence from Spain, with supporters hoping it will propel the issue further despite the opposition from Madrid.

The vote, which was branded a “consultation of citizens” in the face of Spain’s legal blocking of the ballot, was set up and manned by grassroots pro-independence organisations.

Election volunteers, rather than state employees such as teachers, took responsibility at the polling stations in places such as school buildings, and the 2.5 million pamphlets issued urging people to vote were sent out by private companies rather than the state-owned postal service.

Spanish unionist parties argue that, for these reasons, the vote could not legitimately reflect the wishes of anyone.

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Catalonia’s independence poll was run almost entirely by volunteers

But there was a festive atmosphere in Barcelona as hundreds lined up to vote on Sunday,with some wearing pro-independence regalia.

“I voted for independence because I’ve always felt very Catalan,” said Nuria Silvestre, a 44-year-old teacher. “Maybe I wasn’t so radical before, but the fact they are prohibiting [the vote] from Madrid has made me.”

Regional government head Artur Mas claims the restrictions on the vote means the turnout number will likely be considered more important that the results of the vote itself.

“We have earned the right to a referendum,” Mas said, adding that “once again, Catalonia has shown that it wants to rule itself”.

Rafael Catala, Spain’s justice minister, accused Mas of organising “an act of pure political propaganda with no democratic validity. A sterile and useless event,” he said, adding that the government may take further legal measures against the vote.

Additional reporting by agencies

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