Monday, 10 November 2014

80 percent say resounding ‘yes’ in Catalan independence referendum

In what is essentially a symbolic independence referendum, the Catalan people have spoken, with 80 percent voting ‘yes” to an independent Catalan state.  Meanwhile Madrid dismissed the event as a “day of political propaganda.”

This poll was organized despite the fierce opposition of Spain’s government, including a constitutional court ruling to suspend the referendum.  After weeks of intense “negotiations” with Spanish authorities, the poll went ahead anyway.  There were queues of people lining up all over Barcelona and other Catalan cities on Sunday, many cheering and applauding as the polling stations opened. 

Voters were asked two questions.  Question number one was, “Do you want Catalonia to be a state?’ For those that answered the first question affirmatively, the second asked, “Do you want that state to be independent?”  Turns out 80 percent of Catalans answered those two questions in the affirmative.

The Catalan president, Artur Mas, said that the symbolic referendum was a “total success, adding that this vote "made it very clear that we want to govern ourselves." 

While the final results will only be published at the end of the month, partial results have shown that 80.7 percent of the approximately two million people who took part ticked the “yes” box on both questions, while slightly over 10 percent voted yes to question one, and no to question two.  Of the naysayers, approximately 4.5 percent said no to both questions. 

Sour Grapes? 

According to Justice Minister Rafael Catalá, the vote was "fruitless and useless", saying that the government considered it to be a “day of political propaganda organized by pro-independence forces and devoid of any kind of democratic validity."

Apparently state prosecutors are trying to establish whether the Catalan authorities actually breached court injunctions by using schools and other public buildings as polling stations.  Their investigations are to apparently "assess the existence of criminal liability," Catalá added.

While Catalan leaders do admit the vote is symbolic with no direct legal consequence, they are hoping that the numbers involved will bolster their case with leaders in Spain and other European governments.  Mas told the media his government will now be pushing for an official referendum and that he will be seeking international support in order to convince Rajoy’s government to let it happen.

"We deserve to vote in a legal and binding referendum and this is what we are going to try to do," he added. 

Fifth of Spain’s economy 

The Catalonia region, with its distinct language and culture, is proud of its heritage and the region's strong economic situation brings in what relates to a fifth of Spain’s economy.  The riches of Catalonia are likely the strongest reason that Rajoy refuses to allow independence from austerity-ridden and economically-challenged Spain, with its budget cuts and high unemployment rates.

Of the 7.5 million people living in the region, more than two million have made their thoughts clear, and it is hoped that a more official referendum will show even higher figures on the positive side of the ballot papers in future
Photo: CC-by-SA Kippelboy