Update (6:30 pm ET): In further proof that Spain’s brutal crackdown on today’s Catalan independence referendum only helped bolster the seccessionist cause, the regional government announced that voters had overwhelmingly voted in favor of independence, with 89% voting to separate from Spain.
Shortly after midnight on Sunday, Catalan government spokesman Jordi Turull announced that 2,262,424 ballot papers had been counted. There were 2,020,144 “yes” votes, or just under 90% of the total, and just 176,565 “no” votes.
The regional government has promised to officially declare independence within 48 hours.
Even though Spanish authorities ruled that the vote was illegal, Dimitrij Rupel, head of the International Parliamentary delegation on Catalonia’s referendum, said at a news conference in Barcelona on Sunday that the referendum on independence was prepared in agreement with Spanish existing legislation, potentially setting up the regional government for a legal battle.
In a speech earlier this evening, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who tried to suppress the vote by jailing public officials, shutting down electronic voting systems, ordering police to manually destroy ballots and seal off polling places, declared that no referendum had taken place.
All eyes now turn to Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont as tensions between Spain and its restive state are expected to come to a head, as the prospect of intensifying street violence looms.
Update (5:30 pm ET): Though the results of today’s referendum have yet to be announced, separatists in Catalonia are urging the government to declare independence from Spain, citing today’s violent crackdown as the reason. In a rousing speech following the close of voting, Carles Puigdemont, the leader of the Catalan government, said its citizens had earned the right to form an independent state and said the results of the referendum, which are not yet known, will be sent to the local parliament to be ratified.
Though the central government in Spain declared the refendum illegal, and send federal Civil Guard and National Police forces to try and suppress the vote, police only managed to shut down a small sliver of polling stations, allowing many in the region of more than 7 million people which has a larger economy than Portugal, to cast ballots.
In public remarks delivered following a speech from Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, Puigdemont said that “with this day of hope and suffering, the citizens of Catalonia have won the right to an independent state in the form a republic.” He also said that the EU could no longer “continue to look the other way” from human rights violations around the referendum, according to a translation in the Guardian.
“The Spanish government has today written a shameful page in its relationship with Catalonia,” adding that there had been abuses of human rights committed by Spanish police.
Puigdemont added that he will keep his pledge to declare independence unilaterally if the “Yes” side wins. A law passed by the Catalan parliament says a win of more than 50% for the “Yes” side will trigger a declaration of independence within 48 hours of the vote regardless of the turnout. He appealed to European leaders, saying the Catalan crisis was “no longer an internal Spanish matter”.
“The Catalan government will transmit to the Catalan Parliament, the seat and expression of the sovereignty of our people, the results of the referendum, so that it can act according to that laid out in the referendum law”, he said.
Spain’s Constitutional Court suspended the regional law governing the independence referendum, but Puigdemont’s government pushed ahead with the vote anyway, as the Associated Press noted.
So far, 844 people have been injured, including 33 police, in the day’s demonstrations.
Meanwhile, Barcelona Mayor Ada Colaucalled for Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to resign after the shocking brutality that federal police sent by the government in Madrid demonstrated. Police attacked peaceful demonstrators, punched and kicked voters and dragged some from polling places.
Mayor Ada Colau told a local television station that “Rajoy has been a coward, hiding behind the prosecutors and courts. Today he crossed all the red lines with the police actions against normal people, old people, families who were defending their fundamental rights.”
“It seems obvious to me that Mariano Rajoy should resign.”
Mirroring Puigdemont’s comments, Colau said that Catalans had “earned the right to demand” a proper vote on independence from Spain, adding that “the European Union must take a stand on what has happened in Catalonia.
Rajoy in a speech earlier in the evening declared that the referendum was illegitimate, and that no vote had even taken place, eliciting calls for his resignation from local officials.
Government officials from across Europe criticized Rajoy for the violent crackdown. But perhaps the most amusing criticism came from Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro who on Sunday slammed Rajoy for trying to halt the referendum, saying the conservative leader was a hypocrite for supporting Venezuela’s opposition while cracking down on dissent at home.
Spain has been a vocal critic of leftist Maduro, accusing him of undermining Venezuela’s democracy and plunging the country’s 30 million people into the direst poverty because of his government’s economic mismanagement. Maduro seized on the images of Spanish riot police bursting into polling stations across Catalonia on Sunday, confiscating ballot boxes and voting papers, as evidence that it is Rajoy who lacks democratic credentials. Venezuela’s opposition responded by accusing Maduro of hypocrisy, saying the Venezuelan leader violently clamped down on four months of protests demanding humanitarian aid, early elections, and respect for the opposition-led Congress.
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Update (4:15 pm ET): As promised, Barcelona FC played its season opening against Las Palmas to an empty stadium to protest the brutal actions of the Spanish government. In a statement released earlier, the team said it had asked the Professional Football League to postpone the game because of today’s referendum, but it had refused.
Polls across the region have now closed, but because many of the region’s centralized voting systems have been cut off by Spanish authorities, the regional government hasn’t been able to provide estimates for turnout. Counting the votes could take time. However, the Catalan government has said it would declare independence within 48 hours should the vote be in favor of leaving.
…Meanwhile, the number injured in today’s unrest has climbed above 750.
Barcelona game played with empty stands at Camp Nou in protest of the Spanish government’s actions in #Catalonia. http://www.latimes.com/sports/sportsnow/la-sp-barcelona-no-fans-20171001-story.html …
Update (12:30 pm ET): Clashes between riot police and voters in Barcelona and other towns and cities across Catalonia have left hundreds injured as police beat peaceful demonstrators with sticks and fired rubber bullets into crowds. The clashes, which have been well-documented by journalists and members of the public, are resulting in a massive public embarassment for the government in Madrid, as photos of elderly Catalonian pensioners with blood streaming down their faces have flooded the internet.
According to the Catalonian health ministry, 465 people have been injured during today’s demonstrations, including at least nine local police officers and three Civil Guard officers. Here’s a breakdown via the Guardian: 216 were hurt in Barcelona, 80 in Girona, 64 in Lleida, 53 in Terres de l’Ebre, 27 in Catalunya central and 25 in Tarragona.