Spain: A Divided Nation

On Sunday, October 1, Catalonia staged a vote for independence from Spain that brought out all the nation’s hopefuls, but at the same time faced severe opposition from the Spanish government. The Catalans, of far northeastern Spain, had been preparing for the referendum long in advance.

Despite the overwhelming wish to secede expressed in the results, however, the vote was said to be illegal by the Parliament of Spain.

The plan was for the Catalan President, Carles Puigdemont, to declare the results of the referendum. These are the results of the ballot according to CNN: “The ballot and its aftermath have divided Catalans. Some 90% of voters backed a split from Spain, but turnout was only around 42%, largely because anti-independence Catalans did not show up. The vote was marred by clashes between citizens and Spanish police in which hundreds of people were injured.” This data from CNN demonstrates that the majority of Catalans who decided to risk voting are in support of independence. In opposition, though, is a significant number of Catalans who do not support proposals to secede from Spain and think that it would do more harm than good for Spain and Europe as a whole.

Interestingly, Puigdemont was not given the opportunity to declare Catalonia’s independence to the Spanish Parliament on the day of the referendum because of the suspension of the meeting of the Catalan regional parliament by Spain’s highest court. The meeting was suspended because of the request from the Catalan Socialist Party, which is against separation. This also brings up the question, how would the reaction of the Spanish Parliament have differed from the violent response of the Spanish police? Some believe that staging the referendum so publicly like they did was unwise because it was a highly volatile and chaotic situation and clearly caused antagonization of both parties. The referendum vote did indeed spiral out of control, with several clashes ensuing between voters and police and other law enforcement personnel.   

The reaction of the police towards voters was brutal, and yet, it did not stop or slow the efforts of the Catalans who voted. If anything, their reaction infused the Catalans with more passion for their cause and exacerbated their frustrations with Spain even further because the violence they inflicted serves as an additional reason to secede.
It remains to be seen how Catalonia conducts its further attempts at secession, but what is clear is the hope and pride that the Catalans have in their dream for independence. Puigdemont expressed this hopeful sentiment when he commented on the events of October 1, saying, “Catalan citizens have won a lot more than they had won until now”.