Monday, November 10, 2014

2.3 million Catalans participated in November 9's symbolic vote with 100% of ballots counted

On Morning at noon, the definitive results of Sunday's symbolic vote were released by the Catalan Government. 2,305,290 people cast their ballot in November 9's participatory process on independence from Spain, which replaced the original consultation vote that had been banned by the Spanish authorities. Independence clearly won, with 80.76% of the ballots and 1,861,753 votes. 10.07% voters supported a Catalan State within a federal or confederated Spain, representing 232,182 ballots. 
In addition, 4.54% of participants opposed to the creation of such a federated State and opposed independence; therefore 104,772 citizens backed the Autonomous Community system or decentralization of power. A cross-party international delegation of observers formed by Members of the European Parliament and other parliamentary chambers stated the vote had "been conducted successfully" in "challenging circumstances" and they emphasised the "calm" attitude of citizens, ruling out any coercion. In addition, they backed the voter registration system, which prevented people from voting twice. 

Despite the Spanish Government's pressures and veiled threats, including future potential actions of the Public Prosecutor Office, a large number of citizens participated in this non-binding vote, run by more than 40,000 volunteers and backed by the Catalan Executive and a large part of civil society organisations. In addition, hundreds of people were still queueing on Monday to access the few polling stations that will remain open for the next 15 days for those Catalans that could not vote on Sunday. There will be 7 such voting centres spread throughout Catalonia and Catalans living abroad will be able to go to one of the 17 polling stations located overseas. In fact, Catalans living abroad were able to cast their ballot in 17 Catalan Government's commercial offices (to gather foreign investment and assist companies to reach new markets) and some 14,000 did so on Sunday.


On Sunday night it was announced that the Catalan Government would release results during the night. Some 30 minutes after midnight, the Vice President of the Catalan Government announced the first results from 88.44% of the polling stations. Those early results turned to be very similar to the definitive ones. Just after midnight, Ortega announced that 2.043.226 ballots had already been counted, showing an 80.72% support for independence. She also added that the Catalan Government was estimating that the final number of cast votes would be around 2.25 million. Finally, 2,305,290 people vote and independence won with 80.76% of the votes.

During Monday early morning, the vote count was gradually increasing, but on a slow trajectory. The nature of the participatory process run by volunteers and with a two-part question made the final figures arrive a bit later than what was initially expected at the start of the night. However, the Catalan Government had initially announced that the results would be known on Monday, although it changed its mind when the vote count was developing quite fast with the first group of polling stations.

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 were backing independence from Spain. Those voting "yes" to the first part and "no" to the second were backing a Catalan State within a federal or confederated Spain. Finally, those voting "no", backed the current 'status quo' of the Autonomous Community system or the option of recentralising power.

The definitive results

With 100% of the ballots counted, 1,864,753 Catalans voted "yes" to the two parts of the question, meaning they voted for independence, representing 80.76% of the ballots. They were followed by those who voted "yes-no", which accounted for 10.07% of the ballots and 232,182 voters. The third largest group was those voting "no", which represented 4.54% of the ballots and 104,772 voters. Those answering "yes" to the first part but not answering the second question, which means they back the creation of a Catalan State but they refused to say whether it should be independent or not from Spain, represented 0.97% of the ballots and 22,466 voters. The rest of ballots were NOTA votes (0.56% and 12,986 voters) and other (3.09% and 71.131 people).

In addition, there were also results for each part of the question. To the question "Do you want Catalonia to become a State?", 91.81% (2,116,401 people) voted "yes", 4.54% voted no (104,772 citizens), 0.56% were NOTA votes (12.986 people) and 3.09% were for other things (71,131 voters).The second part of the question (If yes, do you want this State to become independent?), 87.97% voted for "yes" (1,861,753 people), 10.07% voted for "no" (232,182 people) and 1.06% did not ticked either the "yes" or the "no" answers (22,466 citizens).

Catalan President sends a message to the international community: "help us" to convince Madrid

President Artur Mas voting 
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.

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