WE WILL VOTE! — Police blocked a voting ballot from pro-separatists to prevent additional
voting, while protestors marched the streets past a cafe in Barcelona. (NY Times)
Another controversial referendum was held on Sunday, when the Spanish government wanted to stop a voting on independence in the wealthy region of Catalonia, Spain. Proseparatists took charge, regardless.
Spain’s Constitutional Court banned the vote earlier in September after Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy claimed that it violated Spain’s 1978 constitution, stating that the country is indivisible.
Catalan leader, Carles Puigdemont, explained that he had ideas in place to ensure success of the vote, which openly defied Madrid and pushed the country closer to a political crisis. “We will do it because we have contingency plans in place to ensure it happens, but above all because it has the support of the immense majority of the population, who are sick of the arrogance and abuse of the People’s Party government,” Puigdemont said in a televised address.
To prevent an independence vote, the national government in Madrid attempted everything, such as disabling the internet, confiscating ballots and threatening prosecution. Additionally, the government ordered police to stand guard and take over any polling booths that were set up. The government and the coun try’s constitutional court have ruled this referendum as unconstitutional, although this is not enough force to stop voters.
Rajoy has told Catalonian politicians to “stop this radicalism and disobedience.” Speaking in a televised address last week, he continued, “Don’t go ahead. Go back to the law and democracy. This referendum is a chimera.” Rajoy metaphorically explained this as an idea that is aspired but seemingly impossible to achieve.
In Madrid, police invasions already took place on regional government offices, when officers seized election materials and made arrests relating to the vote. Protests have taken place in the region’s largest city, Barcelona, in response to the police actions. Protesters chanted, “We will vote!”
While some polls also showed that a majority of Catalans would favor remaining as a part of Spain, participants were angered at the Spanish government for not allowing an official vote for independence and for the perceived suppression of a democratic process of experiencing military dictatorship for most of the 20th century.
In the meantime, officials predicted that 90% of the Catalans who voted on Sunday were in favor of independence. While the region had 5.3 million available voters, only 2.26 million actually voted. About 770,000 votes were lost due to the disruption and chaos from the Spanish police invasions in the polling stations. Some Catalan officials relied on private ballots that changed the voting rule before the polls were ready to open, allowing for voters to submit their ballot with out the constricting requirements.
According to the Catalan department of health, about 761 people were injured in this cha otic combat with two individuals hospitalized and 10 police officers injured.
The day’s events left nothing resolved except for the status of Spain’s economic powerhouse, leaving supporters on both positions more frustrated than be fore.
Many believe that Catalonia might encounter a risky future from outside of Spain, and may not be certain of being readmit ted to the European Union. Others claimed that this independence attempt may have created divisions in the region of Spain where the economy attracted families.
Barcelona’s day ended as voters celebrated the referendum, even if the outcome remains un certain for the Catalans. Is Catalonia actually one step closer to wards their independence?