On Oct. 1 the region of Catalonia in Spain held a referendum, as the citizens voted directly to decide whether or not they would move towards independence from Spanish rule. Catalonia is a territory in Spain that has a distinct culture and language. As one of the richer states of Spain, Catalonia enjoyed greater self-autonomy until Spain’s high courts turned down legislation that would continue to give the region large amounts of freedom.
The day of the referendum, thousands of Catalonians headed to the polls to vote on this debated issue, but were met with physical force from Spanish police. Hundreds of Catalonians were injured as a result of the clashing violence. News outlets and western countries were quick to point fingers at Spain’s “suppression of democracy”. The Spanish government defended that, any vote for independence is against Spain’s constitution, a constitution ratified in part by the Catalonian people.
Spain’s constitution was ratified in 1978 and affirmed the unity of the nation of Spain. According to The Economist, “[the constitution was] approved by more than 90% of Catalan voters” and only the Spanish Parliament has the authority to alter the constitution.
Due to Spanish government intervention in the election, official vote counts are unknown, but those against independence largely did not show up to vote at all. Carles Puigdemont, leader of the Catalan regional government, has been unclear on where exactly Catalan stands. On Tuesday, Oct. 10, Puigdemont gave a speech affirming that the Catalonian people have shown a clear desire for independence. Puigdemont went as far as signing a Declaration of Independence, but has noted this document will not take effect immediately. As a result, Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, has asked for a clarification from Catalan as to whether or not they are seeking independence.
Dialogue continues between Spanish and Catalonian leadership, and it is unclear if Spain will move forward in using force to keep Catalan under Spanish power, or if Catalonia is even seeking full autonomy. This issue is even more contentious as today, Thursday, Oct. 12 is Fiesta Nacional de España, a day of celebration of the Spanish culture.