What is the Catalan Referendum? Why Does Catalonia Want Independence?
Photo: Chris McGrath / Getty Images

The Catalan independence referendum is in the news a lot these days but quite honestly, not many people actually know what that even means. Where is Catalan? What is the Catalan referendum? Why does Catalonia want independence? In this article, we’re going to take a brief look at the Catalan referendum and distill down all the facts that you need to know about this very complex issue. Hopefully, by the end of it, you will feel that you have had the Catalan referendum explained to you.

Catalonia in Brief

Catalonia is actually the principality of Catalonia and it is located on the east coast of Spain. It borders with the southern tip of France and consists of four provinces: Girona, Lleda, Tarragona, and Barcelona. Catalonia enjoyed autonomy from Spain up until the Spanish Civil War and eventually lost all autonomy under the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, who ruled over Spain with a military dictatorship from 1939 to 1975. After Franco’s death, democracy was regained in Spain and Catalonia would regain some of their autonomy under the new Spanish constitution in 1978.

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Why a Referendum?

Over the years, due to economics, cuts in public spending, and recessions, Catalonia’s autonomy has decreased within the confines of Spain. The principality is the most profitable region in Spain and in the opinion of those in Catalonia, they seem to be picking up the bill for the rest of the country, without the autonomy they were promised. It seems they are getting tired of it and maybe this is the boiling point.

In November of 2014, an unofficial vote was held for independence and over 2 million of the estimated 5.4 million legal voters in Catalonia voted, with 80% of the votes in favor of succeeding from Spain. In 2015, a party of Separatists won Catalonia’s elections and began working on a binding referendum that would bring about Catalonia independence.

The Issue at Hand

The Catalan parliament enacted a law of its own creation on September 6, 2017, to be able to bring about a referendum for the region to leave Spain. The Catalan parliament voted in favor of this and the stage was set for an October referendum. However, this is in direct violation of Spain’s constitution, which states that Spain is indivisible, at which point, the climate in Catalan and Spain became chaos.

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The Catalan Referendum Vote

The Catalan referendum vote occurred October 1, 2017. What happened during the vote and what happened next can only be described politely as a political mess of disastrous proportions. The Spanish government moved in and closed down polling stations that would cover 14.5% of voters, often through force. What the Spanish government didn’t realize was that the Catalan parliament had changed voting rules in anticipation of this move. The new rules, simply put, allowed all citizens of Catalan to vote wherever they could.

At the end of the day, there were 2,020,144 votes in the yes column, which was 90.09% of the votes that were received. The principality of Catalonia was to secede from Spain.

Not So Fast

Despite the overwhelming vote to leave Spain, the government of Spain wasn’t having any of it. From the Spanish government’s point of view, the referendum and leading up to it has been unconstitutional at the very least and treasonous at the very most. Key officials in Catalan’s parliament are being investigated for possible crimes, including inciting rebellion. Both governments have called for support from other governments around the world. There have been numerous protests throughout Catalonia and the issues are far from settled.

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