THE unrest caused by the dispute between Catalonia and the rest of Spain over the region’s independence referendum is continuing.
Despite the heavily-criticised reaction of Spanish police – which saw violent scenes at polling stations – the regional government in Catalonia is claiming over 2million people took part in the vote. But will it result in Catalonia’s independence…
Where is Catalonia and why does it want independence from Spain?
Catalonia in the northwest of Spain is home to 7.5million residents and the country’s second city, Barcelona.
It has a devolved government as well as its own language and culture.
In 2010 the country’s constitutional court ruled that references to the “nation of Catalonia” had “no legal validity” prompting huge protests.
The wealthy region is a major education hub as well as a centre for finance, technology and exports.
The region represents a fifth of Spain’s GDP and there is anger that the population pay more taxes to central government than are returned to the area.
When was the Catalonia independence referendum vote?
Catalonia’s separatist leaders opened the region’s polling stations on October 1 for what the national government had branded an “illegal” independence vote.
The Catalan leaders and the Spanish government have been at loggerheads for decades over campaigns for a split.
As tension mounted during the day, Spanish cops fired rubber bullets and beat people with batons as they tried to disperse crowds gathering to vote.
Police also forcibly dragged people out of polling stations as they tried to vote in a democratic action described by the Spanish government in Madrid as “illegal”.
The regional government said voting took place in 73% of approximately 6,000 polling stations. Nearly 900 people and 33 police officers were injured during the clashes on Sunday.
As a result of the violence, a large number of Catalan citizens – including staff and players at FC Barcelona – are set to go on strike on Tuesday, October 3.
The referendum ballot asked Catalans to answer yes or no to a single question: “Do you want Catalonia to become an independent state in the form of a republic?”
What has the Spanish government said?
The Spanish constitutional court declared the referendum illegal and launched a crackdown to destroy ballot papers and stop polling stations from opening.
Raids on Government offices also saw a number of the region’s officials arrested and 10 million ballot papers impounded.
Has the region voted to leave Spain?
Despite the Government crackdown many Catalonians cast their vote – with the regional authorities saying 2.26million people had voted.
That would mean roughly 42% of the electorate in the region had voted.
Carles Puigdemont has said he will present the results of the vote to the regional parliament.
In 2014 an informal referendum saw more than 80 per cent vote in favour of independence.
But, other polls have previously indicated that the 7.5 million Catalans are divided on the question of independence.
What would happen if Catalans voted for independence?
It is understood the ruling parties in the Catalonia region will declare independence from Spain within 48 hours of a promised referendum on October 1 if voters say “yes”.
But, the Spanish government would look to block independence as a result of what it has branded an “illegal” vote.
The Government clampdown has already seen widespread protests across the region and its seems whatever the result the independence debate will continue.