Tuesday, November 18, 2014

How to interpret Catalonia’s 9N vote


13 November 2014


Taking into account the circumstances in which the vote took place, the participation of 2.3M people is a great success


Finally, last Sunday, Catalonia voted on independence as planned. It was not easy because the Spanish government and the state’s judicial bodies did everything possible to impede the participatory process up until the very last second. They used threatening declarations to try to scare voters as well as the more than 40,000 volunteers in charge of the logistics. This had to be done by volunteers because had they been public servants, the Spanish government would have pressed charges against them.

Thus the circumstances were far from ideal to hold a vote. Moreover, the IT systems of the Catalan government and of the vote were victims of an unprecedented cyber-attack. The political intent of the attack is evident. Up until the last moment, Catalans were doubtful whether on Sunday they could really go to vote, or if the judges and the police would remove the ballot boxes.

But Sunday arrived and the polling stations opened punctually at 9am amid a loud round of applause by those in line to vote. Whole families, young and old, lifelong Catalans and newly-arrived, waited patiently to cast their vote with contained emotion. This was a radically democratic act that should be considered normal, but which the Spanish government insisted on turning into exceptional.

Challenging circumstances

Faced with the impossibility of using the census, all citizens above the age of 16 with an identity card certifying their address in Catalonia were called to participate. The vote was held in an exemplary manner and in a festive and joyful atmosphere. At the end of the day, a delegation of international observers made up of parliamentary representatives and led by the Scottish unionist Ian Duncan concluded that the vote “was conducted successfully in challenging circumstances”.

A total of 2,305,290 Catalans cast their vote, 35.81% of those who were eligible to do so. Taking into account the challenging circumstances mentioned above, it is a very high figure, only slightly below the 2,532,629 Catalans that went to vote in the previous European elections, which were held with the usual institutional support. In normal circumstances, with a referendum called officially, all analysts signal that the participation would be similar to that of the Scottish referendum, around 85%.

From all voters, 80.76% voted in favour of independence, 4.54% against and 10.7% in favour of a non-independent state (the federal solution). The rest were blank votes or classified as others. Despite the fact that the Spanish government of Mr Rajoy has qualified the vote as a “useless and anti-democratic farce” (sic), the Catalan President was clear that Catalonia will vote again soon in a definitive manner on its political future; ideally, in a referendum as done in Scotland and Quebec. However if Spanish democracy is not sufficiently mature and solid to allow a referendum of this kind, snap plebiscitary elections can be called. In any case, Catalonia will vote and that is why this website is still active and will remain up-to-date until that day.

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