Voters in Catalonia on Sunday proved overwhelmingly in favor of claiming their independence from Spain with more than 80 percent of those who turned out for the non-binding resolution declaring their desire to separate themselves formally from Spain.
Though a Spanish court declared the vote invalid even before it took place, proponents of the referendum in the autonomous north-east region declared the vote a great success and said it proves that a full and binding election on indepence should now take place.
Indications were well over two million people out of an estimated 5.4 million eligible voters took part in the ballot. And the results were clear.
According to Reuters:
The "consultation of citizens" in the wealthy northeastern region follows a legal block by the central government against a more formal, albeit still non-binding ballot which regional leaders had been pushing for originally.
Because of the legal restrictions set on it, the ballot was set up and manned by grassroots pro-independence organizations, and Spanish unionist parties argue that, even for that reason alone, it could not legitimately reflect the wishes of anyone.
The restrictions on the vote also means that the turnout number, more than 2 million of 5.4 million potential voters according to the regional government head Artur Mas, will likely be considered more important than the results of the vote itself, expected on Monday.
"We have earned the right to a referendum," Mas told cheering supporters. He qualified the vote as a historic success, setting the stage for a full referendum.
"Once again Catalonia has shown that it wants to rule itself."
And Euronews reports:
And the New York Times adds:
Even after being ordered by the Constitutional Court of Spain to suspend the vote, the regional government allowed the straw poll. It has insisted that such a court ban could not override the right of Catalonia’s 7.5 million citizens, who include 5.4 million voters, to decide whether to secede.
The Catalan secessionist standoff comes after Scotland voted in September not to break away from Britain. That referendum, however, was authorized by the British government in London. The fight over Catalonia’s future is proving far more contentious and has turned into the biggest political challenge for Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy since he took office in late 2011.
He and Mr. Mas have been at loggerheads for two years, initially over fiscal issues. Tensions came to the fore in September when Mr. Mas, who is a late but staunch convert to the secessionist cause, signed a decree approving an independence vote on Nov. 9.
In a televised news conference late Sunday, Mr. Mas argued the vote was “a total success,” held despite a central government that had displayed “political short-sightedness and indifference, if not intolerance.”
He urged Mr. Rajoy to allow Catalans to hold a formal referendum soon. “Like Quebec and Scotland, Catalonia also wants to decide its political future,” he said.