Catalans head to parliamentary polls in new effort toward secession
Over 35 percent of eligible voters had cast their vote by midday, which is a nearly 6 percent rise compared with the 2012 elections, according to the most recent data released by authorities, Catalan News Agency (CNA) reported.
“There’s a lot of interest in these elections and the increase in participation, in the four regions in Catalonia, is proof of that,” said the Catalan Minister for Public Administration, Meritxell Borras, as cited by CNA. “It’s very positive.”
The Catalan president, Artur Mas, said as he cast his vote that “Today is a great win for democracy in Catalonia. We have surpassed all the obstacles placed by the Spanish government. Now, Catalonia faces its own destiny,” AP reported.
"This must be a win-win operation,” Mas told reporters on Sunday. “This has to be a win-win issue. It is not only a matter for Catalonia, it is also a matter for Spain and a matter for the whole European Union."
Supporters of Catalan independence regard the vote as a form of independence referendum. They are counting on a decisive victory for the “Junts pel Sí” (“Together for yes”) coalition that advocates secession for the region.
“Junts pel Sí” needs 68 of 135 seats in the Parliament to achieve a majority, but due to the Catalan election system, it can reach its goal with just 45 percent of the vote.
About 2,700 polling stations opened at 9am local time (7am GMT), and will be working until 8pm local time (6pm GMT). A total of 5.5 million Catalans are eligible to vote.
Security has been stepped up and is ensured by 10,000 police.
The preliminary results are to be announced later tonight, with the final results expected on October 4.
A female resident of Barcelona told RT's Anastasia Churkina: “I am full of hope. I’ve come here thinking of my grandparents and the son that I’m expecting.”
Meanwhile, a more skeptical man said he didn’t think independence was “a good solution for Catalonia.”
Prior to the election, the region has been shaken by mass rallies led by the region’s president Artur Mas, with thousands of pro-independence demonstrators taking to the streets.
Mas has promised that in case pro-secession forces win the parliamentary election, an 18-months-long process of separation from Madrid will be launched.
Local politicians explained to RT why they think it is high time for the separation.
“You have a people, a nation, which wants its own freedom. That’s the core issue, we want to do it democratically, we want to vote,” Josep Rull from the Democratic convergence of Catalonia told RT.
“Now the parties that are running in a coalition for independence, they say they’re going to [achieve] independence,” Elisenda Paluzie, of the ‘Together for yes’ party, added.
“If Catalonia is an independent state, we will be able to take our own decisions, and now this is impossible inside Spain,” Alfred Bosch, from the ‘Republican left of Catalonia’ party.
Madrid, however, stated that the region has no legal rights to become independent, and warns the consequences of the potential secession may prove disastrous.
The Bank of Spain said that Catalonia would face financial restrictions such as freezing of deposits, adding that the region as an independent state wouldn’t be part of the Eurozone.
Moreover, two main Catalan banks claim they will relocate if the region secedes.