Catalonia wants Spain out
CATALONIA has overwhelmingly voted for independence from Spain, with 90% of more than 2.1 million votes counted saying "Yes”, the regional government says, despite violent efforts by police to prevent the poll.
Riot police brought in from outside the Catalonian region forced their way into polling stations to violently shut down the referendum - which had been banned by Madrid - assaulting voters and seizing ballot boxes.
Whereas Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria praised police for acting with "firmness and proportionality”, Catalan President Carles Puigdemont told cheering crowds that police brutality would "shame forever the Spanish state”.
The Catalan Government said some 2.26 million people had cast a ballot - 42.3% of Catalonia's 5.34 million voters - with 90% in favour of secession.
Regional government spokesman Jordi Turull said voting figures were incomplete because an estimated 770,000 votes were either inaccessible or lost after some polling stations were closed and ballot boxes seized by police.
"There have been enormous difficulties, but the vote has happened,” he said.
Regional Vice-President Oriol Junqueras said: "We will respect the mandate which the citizens have given us.”
Even before the figures were made public, Catalan premier Carles Puigdemont had hinted strongly at a potential unilateral declaration of independence when he promised the results of the referendum would be sent to Catalonia's parliament within 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 and only 1086 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 will not increase the possibility of a unilateral declaration of independence.
A UDI had 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.
However, the Spanish government had repeatedly said it did not recognise the referendum, let alone its results, and the country's constitutional court had already declared it illegal.
Outside Catalonia in the rest of Spain, some segments of the media and politicians argue the referendum infringed basic electoral regulations,
Spanish Premier Mariano Rajoy stated categorically on Sunday night that "there was no referendum, just a pretext of one” - a sentiment echoed by Socialist Party leader Pedro Sanchez.
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.
According to Catalan government figures, 844 people required hospital treatment following violent clashes with police.
Two people are seriously injured, one a 70-year-old man who had a heart attack, and the other a young person who was hit in the eye by a rubber bullet.
Ministry of Interior figures put the number of police hurt in the stand-offs and clashes at 33.
In Madrid, Mr Rajoy called for an all-party meeting that was to discuss Catalonia overnight, and a general strike was called by trade unions in Catalonia from today on.
Much media attention, too, both in Spain and abroad, will now focus on how the Catalan parliament handles the referendum results.