Catalonia’s nationalist government vowed to step up its secession drive after over 2 million people voted on Sunday in a symbolic independence referendum which Spain’s central government dismissed as “useless.”
Catalan President Artur Mas called the vote, not sanctioned by Madrid, “a total success” after a large majority of those who took part supported independence.
The vote “made it very clear that we want to govern ourselves,” he said.
In Barcelona and other cities, voters from age 16 and up lined up around the block, some applauding, as polling stations opened after weeks of tense legal wrangling with Spanish authorities.
Voters were asked for their response to two questions. The first was: “Do you want Catalonia to be a state?” If answered affirmatively, the ballot paper posed a second question: “Do you want that state to be independent?”
Partial results showed 80.7 percent of the estimated 2 million people participants voted “yes” to both questions, while just over 10 percent voted “yes” for the first question and “no” for the second, Catalan Vice President Joana Ortega told a news conference. About 4.5 percent voted “no” to both questions.
There was no official electoral roll, but the regional government said 5.4 million Catalans and resident foreigners aged 16 and up were eligible to vote in the referendum, which was organized by thousands of volunteers.
“People believed that they could decide their future and they turned out en masse,” said Xavier Bardolet, 44, as he voted in the town of Sant Pere de Torello about 90km north of Barcelona.
The poll was held in the face of fierce opposition from the Spanish government, and despite a constitutional court ruling to suspend the exercise.
Spanish Minister of Justice Rafael Catala dismissed the vote as “fruitless and useless.”
“The government considers this to be a day of political propaganda organized by pro-independence forces and devoid of any kind of democratic validity,” he said in a statement.
State prosecutors were continuing to investigate whether Catalan authorities breached court injunctions by opening polling stations in schools and other public buildings, to “assess the existence of criminal liability,” he added.
Catalan leaders admit the vote has no direct legal consequences, but hope the high turnout will bolster their political case with both Madrid and other European governments.
Mas said his government would now push to hold an official referendum and would seek international support to help persuade the Spanish government to let it go ahead.
“We deserve to vote in a legal and binding referendum and this is what we are going to try to do,” he added.
Mas had originally planned to hold an official, yet nonbinding, vote on independence, inspired by the referendum held in Scotland in September which resulted in a “no” vote.
However, the Spanish government’s legal challenges forced him to water that down.
Proud of its distinct language and culture, Catalonia, a region of 7.5 million people, accounts for nearly a fifth of Spain’s economy.
Demands for greater autonomy there have been rumbling for years, but the latest bid by Mas has pushed the issue further than ever before.
The vote was “a relative victory” for backers of independence, said political scientist Fernando Vallespin of Madrid’s Autonomous University.
“It shows that Catalans want to vote, but it is a long way from showing that they want independence,” he told reporters.
Grassroots independence groups that have pushed for an official referendum, collected signatures at polling stations on a petition that will be sent to the UN and the European Commission asking for their help to persuade Spain to let Catalonia hold an official referendum.
Final results of the symbolic vote are to be published at the end of the month.
EVOLVING SITUATION: Of the latest cases, 23 percent were found to be asymptomatic, but the coronavirus strain in Da Nang is more contagious, authorities said A COVID-19 outbreak that began in the Vietnamese city of Da Nang more than a week ago has spread to at least four city factories with a combined workforce of about 3,700, state media reported yesterday. Four cases were found at the plants in different industrial parks in the central city that collectively employ 77,000 people, the Lao Dong newspaper said. Vietnam, praised widely for its decisive measures to combat the novel coronavirus since it first appeared in late January, is battling new clusters of infection having gone for more than three months without detecting any domestic transmissions. Authorities yesterday reported one new
Three Micronesian sailors stranded on a remote Pacific island have been found alive and well after a rescue team spotted their giant SOS message written into the sand on a beach. Australian and US military aircraft found the three men on tiny Pikelot island, nearly 200km west of where they had set off. Rescuers said that the men were “in good condition” with no significant injuries. The men had been missing for three days after their 7m skiff ran out of fuel and strayed off course. Authorities in the US territory of Guam raised the alarm on Saturday after the men failed to complete
A cat that went missing on a family holiday on the shores of Loch Lomond, Scotland, has been identified 12 years later. Tortoiseshell-and-white Georgie spent October half term in 2008 with her owners at the Rowardennan campsite, but vanished as they were due to return home to Greater Manchester, England. After a search of the site the Davies family departed without Georgie, hoping the three-year-old microchipped feline would be located by someone. Over the intervening 12 years, she remained close to the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park site, being fed and cared for by campsite staff and holidaymakers. After the COVID-19 pandemic hit and lockdown
LIFELONG LOSS: Jiro Hamasumi, who was not quite born when an atomic bomb hit Hiroshima, lost his father and other relatives, but said he thinks about his father daily As Japan marks 75 years since the devastating attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the last generation of nuclear bomb survivors is working to ensure their message lives on after them. The “hibakusha” — literally “person affected by the bomb” — have for decades been a powerful voice calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons. There are an estimated 136,700 left, many of whom were infants or soon to be born at the time of the attacks. The average age of a survivor now is a little over 83, according to the Japanese Ministry of Health, lending an urgency as they share their testimonies