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Catalans May Not Get Independence Despite 90% Voting for Secession

The Spanish PM ruled out independence and accused separatists of trying to “blackmail...the whole nation.”

Updated
World
4 min read
People block the street in a stand off with civil guards in Sant Julia de Ramis, near Girona, Spain, Sunday, on October 1, 2017. 
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  • The Catalan government states that 90 percent of the votes were for independence.
  • Catalan leader says region earned right to independence
  • Referendum declared illegal by Spanish government
  • PM Rajoy says to call all-party talks to "reflect on future"
  • Riot police use batons, rubber bullets against voters
  • Catalan officials say over 800 injured in clashes

According to the Catalan government, around 2.26 million people had cast a ballot in a banned referendum to leave Spain on Sunday and 90 percent of them had voted in favour of secession.

This represents a turnout of around 42.3 percent of Catalonia's 5.34 million voters, reported Reuters.

However, the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy ruled out independence and accused separatists of trying to "blackmail...the whole nation." He offered all-party talks on the region's future in stead.

Catalan officials said over 800 people were injured in clashes with Spanish riot police during the refrendum, which had put the country into its deepest constitutional crisis in decades and deepened a rift between Madrid and Barcelona, according to Reuters.

Puigdemont’s Address

Catalonia's regional leader opened the door to a unilateral declaration of independence from Spain on Sunday after voters defied a violent police crackdown and, according to regional officials, voted 90 percent in favour of breaking away. The Catalan government said 2.26 million people had cast ballots, a turnout of about 42 percent, despite the massive violence that had ensued.

Carles Puigdemont, President of the Generalitat of Catalonia, said in a televised address:

"On this day of hope and suffering, Catalonia's citizens have earned the right to have an independent state in the form of a republic...My government, in the next few days will send the results of today's vote to the Catalan Parliament, where the sovereignty of our people lies, so that it can act in accordance with the law of the referendum."

The law of the referendum, deemed unconstitutional by Madrid, foresees a unilateral declaration of independence by the Catalan parliament if the majority votes to leave Spain. The law does not set a minimum turnout for the outcome to be valid, reported Reuters.

The results were not a surprise since many unionists were not expected to turn out to vote.

Earlier Puigdemont had said he would move to a declaration of independence within 48 hours of a "yes" vote, reported Reuters. However, the fragmented nature of polling could complicate matters now.

Puigdemont called on Europe to step in to make sure fundamental rights were fully respected.

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What To Expect Next

In another sign of tensions persisting after the vote, secessionist groups and trade unions in Catalonia called a general strike for Tuesday, La Vanguardia newspaper said.

Spanish PM Rajoy said in his televised address:

I propose that all political parties with parliamentary representation meet and, together, reflect on the future we all face.

Reuters reported that opinion polls had shown around 40 percent of the northeastern region wanted independence from Spain although a majority were in favour of a referendum on the issue.

Forty percent of the northeastern region wanted independence from Spain although a majority were in favour of a referendum on the issue.

According to Reuters, the ballot will have no legal status as it has been blocked by Spain's Constitutional Court which ruled at odds with the 1978 constitution that effectively restored democracy in Spain after the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco.

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Truncheons, Rubber Bullets to Stop Ballot

Pro independence supporters play their drums with banner reading, ‘’Long life working class’’, while they walk through the old city in support of the Catalonia’s secession referendum.
Pro independence supporters play their drums with banner reading, ‘’Long life working class’’, while they walk through the old city in support of the Catalonia’s secession referendum.
(Photo: AP)

Hundreds of police armed with truncheons and rubber bullets were sent in from other regions to confiscate ballots and stop the voting. Anguished and frightened screams were heard.

Police acted on a judge's orders to stop the referendum, which the Spanish government had declared illegal and unconstitutional — and Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said going forward with the vote only served to sow divisions.

Spanish Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis said the violence, while "unfortunate" and "unpleasant" was "proportionate."

If people insist on disregarding the law and doing something that has been consistently declared illegal and unconstitutional, law enforcement officers need to uphold the law
Alfonso Dastis, Spanish Foreign Minister Alfonso, to AP
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Spain Has Become “the Shame of Europe”

People queue to vote at a school listed to be a polling station by the Catalan government in Barcelona, Spain, on Sunday.
People queue to vote at a school listed to be a polling station by the Catalan government in Barcelona, Spain, on Sunday.
(Photo: AP)

Catalans favouring a break with Spain have long wanted more than the limited autonomy they now enjoy, arguing that they contribute far more than they receive from the central government, which controls key areas including taxes and infrastructure.

"Today, the Spanish state wrote another shameful page in its history with Catalonia," Puigdemont said on Sunday, adding that he would appeal to the European Union to look into alleged human rights violations during the vote.

Spain has become "the shame of Europe" with its iron-fist tactics, said Jordi Turull, spokesman for the Catalan regional government.

By day's end, Catalan health services said 844 civilians had been treated in hospitals for injuries, including two in serious condition and another person who was being treated for an eye injury that fit the profile of having been hit by a rubber bullet. Thirty-three police officers were also injured.

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Officials planning the police operation may have failed to take into account the ubiquitous use of smart phones with video recorders as violent images were broadcast across the world.

There were also some signs of provocation by activists.

(With inputs from Reuters, AP.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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