2.25 million Catalans participate in non-binding vote, independence option won with 80% support
Catalan parties considered the non-binding participatory process to be "a total success" since it sends a strong message: in the near future Catalans want to hold a legal vote on independence. Around 2.25 million people gave their opinion in Sunday's participatory process in a peaceful way, in a symbolic vote without remarkable incidents. With 88% of ballot boxes counted, 81% of them voted for independence, according to figures gathered by the more than 40,000 volunteers and announced by the Catalan Government. An international delegation of observers considered the vote had "been conducted successfully" in "challenging circumstances". In fact, turnout cannot be compared to regular elections (when the total census reaches 5.4 million), since this Sunday's participation process is a non-binding way to gather opinions and it took place in difficult circumstances, with the Spanish Government's total opposition and even threatening attitude. Before knowing these results, the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, asked the rest of the world for "help" in convincing the Spanish Government of organising a mutually agreed referendum. Pro-self-determination parties asked Madrid to negotiate while Spanish nationalist parties downplayed the vote and consider it "a fraud".
Barcelona (ACN).- Catalan parties considered the non-binding participatory process to be "a total success" since it sends a strong message: In the near future Catalans want to hold a legal and fully democratic vote on independence from Spain in order to decide on their own collective future. Around 2.25 million people gave their opinion in Sunday's participatory process in a peaceful way, in a symbolic vote without remarkable incidents. With 88% of ballot boxes counted, 81% of them voted for independence, according to figures gathered by the more than 40,000 volunteers and announced by the Catalan Government. A cross-party delegation of international observers from the European Parliament and other parliamentary chambers considered that the vote had "been conducted successfully", carried out "in a peaceful and open" way and "under challenging circumstances". In fact, turnout cannot be compared to regular elections, when the total census reaches 5.4 million, since this Sunday's participation process is a non-binding way to gather opinions and it took place in difficult circumstances, with the Spanish Government's total opposition and even threatening attitude. Before knowing these results, the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, stated that "Catalan have given a great lesson of democracy". In addition, he asked the rest of the world for "help" to convince the Spanish Government of organising a mutually agreed referendum. Pro-self-determination parties asked the Spanish Government to negotiate while Spanish nationalist parties downplayed the vote and consider it "a fraud".
November 9 has been an historical day in Catalonia. Even though the citizen participatory process was not binding and it had been organised against the full opposition and threats from the Spanish Government, the symbolical vote has become a true milestone in Catalonia's history. It is the first time that Catalans have been able to openly cast a ballot about their independence from Spain in an official vote, even though all parties in Catalonia acknowledged the vote was not a true and definitive referendum, since the Spanish Government had not granted the conditions to make it possible. Many old people were thrilled to vote, remembering the persecution against Catalan culture and their relatives who fought against Franco's Spanish nationalist dictatorship or who died in the Civil War. The exact result was not important, since the "no" side was almost absent and some independence voters were not fully convinced by the process or were scared by the Spanish Government's threats. The important element was the vote itself, the powerful symbol of giving the opinion on Catalonia's independence from Spain as an act of sovereignty.
81% voted for independence and 10% for a Catalan State within a federal or confederated Spain
Catalans had to answer the following two-part question: "Do you want Catalonia to become a State? If yes, do you want to become an independent State?" By answering with a double "yes" to the question citizens are backing independence from Spain. Those voting "yes" to the first part and "no" to the second are backing a Catalan State within a federal or confederated Spain. Finally, those voting "no", back the current 'status quo' of the Autonomous Community system or the option to recentralise power.
With 88.44% of the polling stations having delivered their results, the Vice President of the Catalan Government announced the first official results of the night. So far, 2,043,000 votes had been counted and they estimate a definitive turnout of 2.25 million people. The independence option clearly won, with 80.72% of the votes so far (around 1.65 million), and it could reach 1.8 million by the end of the night. The intermediate option, supporting the creation of a Catalan State but within a federal or confederated Spain, got 10.11% of the votes. Those opposing independence and also against going beyond the current Autonomous Community system represented 4.55% of the cast votes. There were 0.98% of people who supported the creation of a Catalan State but abstained from saying whether it should be independent from Spain or not. Finally, there were 0.56% NOTA votes and 3.09% expressing other things.
Catalan President sends a message to the international community: "help us" to convince Madrid
The parties supporting self-determination, as well as the Catalan Government, have interpreted the vote's turnout and results as a clear message to the Spanish authorities and the rest of the world that Catalans want to hold a legal vote in the near future. The Catalan President, Artur Mas, considered that Catalan had taken "a gigantic step" towards a definitive vote. Mas considered the vote "a total success" and he highlighted the civic-minded attitude of voters and organisers. He thanked the volunteers, the public institutions, the civil society associations and participants, and added that "when we are going together, we move forward more and better". Furthermore, he sent two messages to the Spanish Government, which he accused of being politically short-sighted and intolerant. The first message is that "Catalans have shown, once again, that they want to rule themselves", in a tradition that has deep historical roots and that it is totally present today with "a clear will and determination". The second message is that Catalans, like "the rest of the world's nations" want to decide their future in a "peaceful, democratic and free way". In this vein, he asked the rest of the world for "help" to convince the Spanish Government of negotiating a mutually-agreed vote.
Reactions from Catalan parties
CDC, The Liberal party within the centre-right pro-Catalan state coalition CiU, running the Catalan Government, said that the vote "send a message that must be heard in Madrid". UDC, the Christian-democrat party within CiU, added that if the Spanish Government does not start negotiating, "the break up can be irreversible". The left-wing Catalan independence party ERC highlighted the clear victory of the independence option. In addition, it stated that it represents an "obligation" to move towards independence. The Catalan green socialist and post-Communist coalition ICV-EUiA stated that "there is nothing more useless than a government that hides itself and does not answer to a citizen mandate", referring to Mariano Rajoy's attitude. They also said that with the vote, Catalonia has earned the right to hold a definitive referendum. The alternative left and radical independence party CUP asked parties not to take credit from the vote. They also emphasised that "Catalonia's future will not be solved around any negotiation table", but it will be decided by its people.
The Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), which opposed Sunday's vote but recognises Catalonia's right to self-determination, stated that the vote confirmed that "we cannot continue this way". They demanded Rajoy "to negotiate" and asked the rest of the parties to make "proposals". The populist and anti-Catalan nationalism party Ciutadans qualified the participatory process as "a fraud". They also asked the PP and the PSC not to back Mas and they demanded early elections. The Spanish Government, run by the PP, said that the participatory process was "an act of pure propaganda" and "a useless and sterile simulation".
Sunday’s vote has no legal effect but it has a great political importance
The participatory process was not a proper referendum and has no legal effects, because during the last 2 years the Spanish authorities refused to negotiate about how to make it possible. They ignored the democratic mandate resulting from the last elections to the Catalan Parliament, held in November 2012, when almost 80% of the new chamber had promised during the campaign a legal self-determination vote. Furthermore, Spanish authorities also rejected all the proposals made by Catalan representatives in those 2 years. They also rejected the repeated offer to renegotiate the exact date and question wording that was initially agreed by 6 Catalan parties representing almost two thirds of the Parliament in December 2013, when they decided not wait any longer for the Spanish Government to change its no-to-everything blocking attitude.
This Sunday’s process was not the original consultation vote, which was temporarily suspended by the Constitutional Court, the Catalan Government launched this light version of the original vote, which does not have all the guarantees of a proper election since it is run by volunteers. In fact, the Catalan President, Artur Mas, recognised a few weeks ago that the “definitive referendum” will be early Catalan elections transformed into a plebiscite on independence by the political parties. However, despite it is not a proper referendum, this Sunday’s vote has a great symbolical and political importance, even though Rajoy downplayed it once again on Saturday after he had unsuccessfully tried to stop it for the last few weeks. In fact, when this participatory process was announced on the 14th of October, the Spanish Government downplayed it and made jokes about, but when parties supporting self-determination put their quarrels aside and they started to work together to guarantee the participatory process’ success, Rajoy started to consider it a serious threat and filed an appeal to the Constitutional Court to stop it. This weekend, when he realised he could not stop the vote from happening, he changed his approach once again and downplayed it.