More than two million Catalans defied a Spanish court and voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence Sunday in a symbolic exercise that vividly brought home both the resolve of Catalan nationalists and the obstacles they face. The vote, overseen largely by volunteers and boycotted by most independence opponents, wasn’t binding and had little international credibility. But Catalans pointed to the high turnout, despite legal and logistical hurdles, to bolster their case to be permitted to hold a formal, binding referendum on separating their wealthy region from Spain. “We’ve earned the right,” said Catalan leader Artur Mas, after casting his ballot. Catalonia’s government estimated that 2.25 million people had participated. The region has about 6 million eligible voters. The ballot asked two questions—whether Catalonia should be a state and whether that state should be independent. With 88% of polling stations reporting returns, the government said that 80.7% answered yes to both questions, and another 10.1% answered yes to the first and no to the second. Some 4.5% voted no to both questions, the government said, and the rest of the ballots were blank. There was no sign, though, that the outcome would prompt Spain’s central government in Madrid to waver from its steadfast opposition to such a referendum.
Alicia Sánchez-Camacho, the head of the Catalan branch of the governing Popular Party, disparaged the vote as a farce. She also raised doubts on the reliability of the voter tally. “They vote, they count,” she said.
The vote, coming less than a week after a constitutional court injunction against it, occupied a gray area between civic activism and civil disobedience.
In a battle of wills and semantics with Madrid, Catalonia’s regional government said it couldn’t comply with the injunction because it didn’t control what it called a “citizen participation process.”
While an estimated 40,000 volunteers staffed polling stations, the Catalan government was also heavily involved while trying to play down its role, volunteers said. Catalan officials sent instructions to poll watchers, prepared software used for same-day voter registration and created an instructional website. The “participation process” became the official Catalan term for the vote after an earlier ruling by the constitutional court, in September, blocked a formal, though nonbinding, referendum.
Full Article: Catalans Back Independence in Symbolic Vote – WSJ – WSJ.