Preliminary results show that 90% of those who voted in Catalonia’s independence referendum backed leaving Spain, Catalan officials say.
Catalonia’s government said that of the 2.2m voters who were able to cast ballots in the banned referendum, two million voted for the region to be given independence.
This represents a turnout of about 42.3 per cent of Catalonia’s electorate of 5.34 million people.
At least 844 people have been injured in a day of violence which saw police in riot gear firing rubber bullets at crowds and beating people who attempted to cast their votes.
The Spanish government has said the referendum was illegal and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy defiantly told reporters “there was no independence referendum today”.
He claimed the Catalan people have been tricked into taking part in an illegal vote accused the regional government of using the referendum as a strategy against legality and democratic harmony and was a “path that leads to nowhere”.
According to voting figures issued early on Monday morning, 90.9 per cent of the votes now counted, or 2,020,144 were in favour of independence, and 7.87 per cent, just 176,565, were against.
The regional government spokesman,
Jordi Turull, said 15,000 votes were still due to be counted and that total voting figures remain incomplete and provisional because a much larger number, an estimated 770,000, are either inaccessible or lost after some polling stations were closed and ballot boxes were seized by police.
“There have been enormous difficulties, but the vote has happened and we’ve gone from ‘votarem’ [we will vote] to ‘hem votat’ [voting has happened.]”; Mr Turull said.
“We will respect the mandate which the citizens have given us,” regional Vice President Oriol Junqueras said.
Even before the figures were made public, Catalan premier Carles Puigdemont had already hinted strongly at a potential unilateral declaration of independence when he promised the results of the referendum will be sent to Catalonia’s parliament within the next few days.
As the results of town after town in Catalonia came through, the pro-independence vote in the referendum looked on track for a landslide victory.
In Girona, a nationalist stronghold and the first of Catalonia’s four provincial capitals to declare its vote, the pro-independence vote was 27, 786 votes in favour of secession out of a total of 29, 717 votes cast, whilst only 1,086 voted to remain in Spain.
With a narrow separatist majority in power in the regional parliament, it is hard to see how Mr Puigdemont’s promise to act on these results would not increase the possibility of a unilateral declaration of independence (UDI).
A UDI has already been promised by several nationalist politicians should the referendum deliver a majority in favour of secession. Catalonia’s referendum law also foresees a UDI by the regional parliament of Catalonia if there is a majority.
“With this day of hope and suffering, Catalonia has earned the right to be an independent state,” Mr
Puigdemont insisted in a televised speech on Sunday night.
However, the Spanish government has said repeatedly it does not recognise the referendum, let alone its results. Outside Catalonia in the rest of Spain, some segments of the media and politicians argue that the referendum infringed basic electoral regulations, whilst the country’s constitutional court already declared it illegal.
On Sunday Socialist Party leader Pedro Sanchez’ echoed Spanish Premier Mariano’s Rajoy’s rejection of the referendum, and Mr Rajoy stated categorically that “there was no referendum, just a pretext of one.”
But the Catalan nationalists were having none of that on Sunday night, with Mr Puigdemont arguing that “millions of people have spoken loud and clear, and we have the right to decide our future.”
Late into the night huge crowds formed in the Plaza de Catalunya in Barcelona, spreading into sidestreets to listen to Mr Puigdemont’s speech on a giant TV screen. In central squares across smaller cities in Catalonia many pro-referendum supporters followed the results and speeches, cheering as the votes in favour of secession came through, while cars adorned with Catalan flags weaved through the streets honking their horns.
Meanwhile Catalan government figures say the total number of people requiring hospital treatment following violent clashes with police has now risen to 844.
Two people are seriously injured, one a 70-year-old man who suffered a heart attack, and the other a young person who was hit in the eye by a rubber bullet.
New Ministry of Interior figures have also raised the number of police hurt in the standoffs and clashes to 33.
In Madrid, Mariano Rajoy has called for an all-party meeting to discuss Catalonia on Monday, while a general strike has been called by trade unions in Catalonia from Tuesday onwards. Much media attention, too, both in Spain and abroad, will now focus on how the Catalan parliament handles the referendum results.