Catalonia Overwhelmingly Votes for Independence From Spain in Straw Poll

10 November 2014
Author 
Castell competitions in Catalonia feature human pyramids that build community and celebrate culture as the region prepares to hold a straw vote on independence from Spain. Video by Stefania Rousselle on Publish Date November 7, 2014. Photo by Arnau Bach for The New York Times.

BARCELONA — Defying legal and political objections from Madrid, more than two million Catalans took part on Sunday in a straw poll on independence that the region’s governing politicians have presented as a prelude to breaking away from the rest of Spain.

The poll, as expected, resulted in an overwhelming secessionist victory, with 80.7 percent of votes cast in favor of independence, according to the preliminary results released by the regional government of Catalonia early Monday. The results were based on 88 percent of votes counted. The government also forecast the final turnout figure would be 2.25 million voters. However, Spain’s justice minister, Rafael Catalá, told reporters on Sunday evening that the vote had been a “useless and sterile” act of political propaganda orchestrated by the regional government of Artur Mas.

 

Even after being ordered by the Constitutional Court of Spain to suspend the vote, the regional government allowed the straw poll. It has insisted that such a court ban could not override the right of Catalonia’s 7.5 million citizens, who include 5.4 million voters, to decide whether to secede.

The Catalan secessionist standoff comes after Scotland voted in September not to break away from Britain. That referendum, however, was authorized by the British government in London. The fight over Catalonia’s future is proving far more contentious and has turned into the biggest political challenge for Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy since he took office in late 2011.

He and Mr. Mas have been at loggerheads for two years, initially over fiscal issues. Tensions came to the fore in September when Mr. Mas, who is a late but staunch convert to the secessionist cause, signed a decree approving an independence vote on Nov. 9.

In a televised news conference late Sunday, Mr. Mas argued the vote was “a total success,” held despite a central government that had displayed “political short-sightedness and indifference, if not intolerance.”

He urged Mr. Rajoy to allow Catalans to hold a formal referendum soon. “Like Quebec and Scotland, Catalonia also wants to decide its political future,” he said.

Mr. Rajoy fought to prevent a Catalan vote that he claimed would violate the Spanish Constitution. He told a party conference on Saturday that the Catalan vote had no validity and would have “no effect whatsoever.” Speaking on Sunday on behalf of Mr. Rajoy’s government, Mr. Catalá, the justice minister, also stressed the vote had no legal implications for Spain and warned instead that the attorney general’s office was probing whether charges could be filed against the Catalan organizers of an invalid poll. - The New York Times

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