Four weeks ago, on November 9, I went to Barcelona. Yes, I travelled back to my birth city to be able to vote for something that I believe in, the independence of Catalonia. However, the main objective of the vote was not asking for independence, but to give the Catalan society the opportunity to express itself and to say what they want their future to be like. Many, including myself, would say that this is democracy; nevertheless, the Spanish government doesn’t have the same view.
By Clara Rodríguez-Solé
For the past three years, Catalans have started to express their desire to be a new country and to be independent out loudly. Every year, more people have decided to stand up for their beliefs and as a consequence more people have participated in the protests on November 11th, Catalan’s National Day. It’s been more than a year since we were told that the day of a referendum was to be the ninth of November (9N). The announcement of the consultation was the result of a compromise, as well as the electoral mandate of the last elections for the Parliament of Catalonia. The results showed that over 70% of the parliament was composed of political parties that were in favor of the referendum. On October 28th Artur Mas, the president of Catalonia, signed the decree for the 9N. Two days later, the Spanish Constitutional Court called the referendum off, saying that the Catalonian vote would be deemed unconstitutional. Although the Catalans had been threatened, we didn’t turn back and more than 40,000 people volunteered to work the polls.
The consultation was comprised of two questions: “Do you want Catalonia to become a state?” and ”If so, do you want this state to be independent?” For each question there was the possibility to vote “Yes” or “No.” A total of 2,305,290 votes were registered in Catalonia on the ninth of November; this is not the final result, however. Catalans were also able to vote in 17 capitals or important cities all over the world and we moreover have the opportunity to vote until November 25th in seven places of the Catalan territory.
The results showed 1,861,753 votes answering the questions with “Yes-Yes”, which constitute 80.76% of the turnout.
10.07% (232,182) voted for the option “Yes-No” and 4.5% (104,772) answered “No” to the first question so they did not get to answer the second one. The results were very positive for those who are looking forward to the independence of Catalonia.
Nonetheless, we also have to take into consideration that most of the people who did not go to vote are the ones who would have answered the first question with “No”. They did not go voting because the consultation was not legally binding and the results will make no difference for the Spanish government with regard to the Catalan situation. Near the polls, there were people asking all voters to sign a letter which will be sent to the main international organizations (United Nations, European Union, etc.). This letter explains all the things that the government of Catalonia has tried to do and that the Spanish government has forbidden.
Some people believe that this letter is even more important than the consultation itself, as it might be the link to the international support that we need.
The main objective of the consultation was to know what the Catalan society wants. The ones that believed in this vote wanted to know what all the other people think. For that reason, a legal referendum would have created more accurate results, as the people against Catalonia’s statehood or independence would have gone out to vote as well. Catalan’s president Artur Mas defended the Catalonian right to democracy in an article for “Le Figaro” on November 15th.
Voting was emotive. People of various ages, from different backgrounds and with different ideologies all went voting with one common belief. It actually even became a Sunday family activity.
My 93-year-old grandmother was able to vote. She was born in 1921, so she has lived under a republic, a civil war and a dictatorship during which the Catalan language and culture was forbidden.
She was finally able to express through a vote, even though it was unconstitutional, what she wants for our country and for her grandchildren. Nevertheless, this time the atmosphere was different than it was on other National days. This time people were outraged over the Spanish government not allowing the vote. However, it was also a unique day in history and many people were taking pictures while voting. Because of that, many people decided to fly to Catalonia and others waited to vote for six hours in London and eight hours in New York.
The first results of the consultation are that the Spanish prosecution has begun to prosecute Catalan’s president, vice-president and its minister of education – all as a result from the pressure by the Spanish government. They are being accused of 4 crimes: crime of disobedience, crime of corruption, crime of embezzlement of public money and usurpation of judicial powers. The verdict has not been issued yet, but they are facing around 5 years of disqualification, which would discharge and ban them from all their civic duties.
The consequences of this poll are uncertain. However, I am convinced that it is going to put pressure on the Spanish government and the international organizations. We are a mature and civilized society that knows what it wants, and right now our desire is to understand what the majority of the Catalan population wants for their future and the upcoming generations. We want an official referendum, allowed and respected by the Spanish government.