2.3 millions challenge the Spanish government with massive independence vote

Catalan MonitorFeature

Voters in Barcelona
Millions lined up in the streets of Catalan cities and towns for Sunday’s vote on independence, with 80% of them voting for full independence for Catalonia. This article highlights the keys of such a major event and its likely consequences in the immediate future on Catalan and Spanish politics.
The results

The double ban of the central government –against the referendum first, and then against the “participatory process”– meant that  the Catalan executive had to rely on volunteers to organise the vote, couldn’t engage on a full-on informative campaign and had to settle for 6.695 voting stations, about one quarter of the number available during a regular election.

Yet Catalans massively took to the polling stations. 2,305,290 queued to cast their vote, despite the unbinding nature of the vote and the constant campaigning by unionist parties and the Spanish government against taking part in it.

Therefore, it was the supporters of independence who overwhelmingly showed up to vote Sí-Sí [Yes to Catalonia becoming a state, and yes to it being independent], while proponents of other options –unionist No and federalist Sí-No– didn’t feel as compelled to take part in the vote. The following are the definitive results according to government sources:

Since the Constitutional Court had banned the use of the electoral roll, voters were required to produce a valid ID card with a Catalan address, which was introduced in a database in order to avoid vote repetition. Postal voting was not available, but Catalans abroad were able to vote in nineteen locations around the world.

The reactions
“A mandate to keep pushing for a definitive vote”
The day was characterised by a festive atmosphere which was reminiscent of previous pro-referendum events, such as the human V in the streets of Barcelona on September 11 this year, or the 400 kilometres-long human chain on the same date last year. Although the symbolic nature of the vote was clear to all the participants –no-one really expected independence to be declared on November 10– supporters of a referendum on independence generally felt that Sunday’s was another step on the final goal of self-determination.

Likewise, pro-referendum parties –CiU, ERC, IC-V and CUP– coincided in praising the turnout and reading the results as a mandate to keep pushing for a definitive vote on the issue. Especially exultant was the Catalan president Artur Mas who, by holding what he had called a “participatory process”, managed to avoid full-on disobedience to the Constitutional Court, while still delivering on his promise to hold a vote.

The remaining Catalan parties –PSC, PP and C’s– refused to take part and consequently criticised the vote as “biased” and not offering “democratic guarantees”. The Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy didn’t react, but the Minister of Justice Rafael Catalá declared that the vote was “fruitless and useless” and an act of “political propaganda”.

As the Spanish government considered taking legal action against the Catalan government, there were reports of incipient turmoil within unionist ranks, as many deplored the image of millions of Catalans voting after having been repeatedly told by the PM that this would never take place. The extreme-right party Vox presented a complaint against Rajoy for “refusing to respond to the crimes committed” by the Catalan president.

International media & observers

Unlike Spanish authorities and opinion-makers, international observers regard Sunday’s events as a success for the pro-referendum. In the eyes of most foreign media, the message sent on November 9 was clear: “Catalans voted in high numbers, despite a government ban and with +80% opting for secession”. This is Bloomberg‘s editorial on the issue:

Bloomberg | Editorial: Catalonia’s Vote Was a Success. Now Negotiate.
Until now, Rajoy’s approach to Catalan frustration has been inflammatory. He and the ruling People’s Party have treated the region’s demands — first for greater autonomy, and later the right to vote on independence — as merely a legal issue, using courts to shut down a constitutional debate.

The Catalan online daily Vilaweb asked foreign reporters about their views on the political process [Spanish and English]:

You can read our selection of articles from November 9 or visit our interactive map with international media reactions from around the world.