80% of voters have supported an independent state of Catalonia.

BARCELONA – More than 2.3 million people voted in Catalonia’s unofficial referendum, which was held on November 9.

Voters were asked two questions; whether they wanted Catalonia to be a state and whether they wanted that state to be independent. The double question was formulated to also embrace voters who traditionally advocate for federalism within Spain instead of full independence.

2,236,806 voters cast their ballots. 80.72% of them answered yes to both questions, whereas just over 10% voted yes for the first question and no for the second. About 4.5% voted no to both questions. These figures are not sensitive to the 13,573 people who have voted so far at polling stations overseas.

The Spanish constitutional court had blocked this symbolic consultation and the previous binding consultation following the regional legislative framework. The party of the ruling Spanish government and anti-independence parties boycotted the process. Complaints against Catalan politicians were presented in the courts in the hours before the consultation. Political analysts agree that this intimidation is one of the factors that explains why the turnout rocketed beyond what had been expected.

For the prohibited yet symbolic referendum, an army of about 40,000 volunteers managed the organisation of the polling stations and registration of voters, so there was no official electoral roll or vote-counting.

Several European observers monitored the development of the mock referendum. Unionist Scottish MP Ian Duncan claimed that “nobody had been forced or threatened for voting” and pointed out the electoral event had been held in a “calm and friendly environment”.

The Catalan President Artur Mas called the referendum a “total success”.

“Catalonia has once again shown that it wants to govern itself,” he said.

“I ara què?” (What’s next?) is what many Catalans and Spanish people were asking after the informal referendum.

The turnout was 37.02% of the 6,228,531 potential voters in Catalonia. The number of eligible voters has risen since citizens over the age of 16 and 900,000 foreign residents now have the right to vote. The participation of voters was higher than in previous years, as expected, but it might have been higher. Unionists voters decided to abstain due to the informality of the referendum.

In fact, Mr. Mas has already sent a formal petition to the Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, demanding him to hold a formal referendum like the one held in Scotland last September. The high participation in the mock referendum supports this request. A binding referendum would unblock the situation and might encourage those who did not vote before to do so in a formal context, raising the turnout beyond 37%.

“This party and this government will not negotiate with the sovereignty of the Spaniards”, stated Spanish Deputy Prime Minister, Soraya Saéz de Santamaría.

The Catalan government are likely to call constituent elections in the following months in the regional parliament. Parties would have to showcase their position for or against independence, and voters would voice their opinion by voting for one party or another. It would be the very last legal and formal way to decide the future of Catalonia, despite difficulties which would also rise due to the lack of negotiation between both governments.

Joan Isus, Correspondent (Europe)

Image Courtesy: Lolo Manolo (https://www.flickr.com/photos/catalonianflags/12170358954), Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic | Flickr