The Catalan people have voted – 90 percent have voted for an independent Catalan state on Sunday, October 3rd. Carles Puigdemont, Catalonia’s regional president, announced “today, on this day of hope and also suffering, citizens of Catalonia have won the right to have an independent state”.
Turnout was approximately 42 percent, less than half of the 5.3 million eligible voters went to polling stations. Partially this may have been due to the fact, that state-police forces suppressed Catalans from entering schools with polling booths. The Catalan regional government furthermore estimates, that up to 770,000 votes were lost in the course of several police raids. Eight percent of Catalans voted against the independence, but it is assumed that the other half of citizens did not go to the elections because they are opposed to the secession movement. In order not to accept the referendum as an official vote, they have boycotted it.
But the referendum for an own Catalan state was overshadowed by several clashes between police force and voters. According to regional government officials, more than 700 people were injured by police brutality, police even fired rubber bullets and dragged away voters from the polling stations.
Spain’s prime minister Mariano Rajoy defended police actions, by arguing they were just following the law. The Supreme Court has marked the referendum illegal, and therefore police measures were a necessary step to prevent Catalans from voting, he announced. But the pictures of policemen pushing voters down the stairs, or people getting beaten with police batons will not de-escalate this conflict. Even more Catalans now want to be independent, and not to be ruled by a government that violently attacks its citizens, some Catalans answered to journalists in Barcelona.
Oriol Bartomeus, a political scientist at Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona, described the events as the “Bloody Sunday of the independence movement”. He supports a compromise between Spanish central and the Catalan regional government. But instead of agreeing to constitutional reforms, prime minister Rajoy wanted a strict enforcement of power. It is unclear what will happen, since neither of both sides is willing to make any compromises. Several politicians have requested the European Union to intervene and mediate in this conflict, Jean-Claude Juncker has to bring together both parties.