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INDEPENDENCE BID

Voting gets underway in a Catalonia referendum lacking legal controls

Lines form at polling centers in region as citizens wait to cast their votes on independence

Catalan premier Artur Mas casts his vote on independence for the region on Sunday. Ampliar foto
Catalan premier Artur Mas casts his vote on independence for the region on Sunday. AFP

An unofficial vote on independence from Spain got underway at 9am on Sunday in the northeastern Spanish region of Catalonia. The poll is going ahead despite two appeals filed with, and accepted by, the Constitutional Court by the central government in Madrid.

The Catalan government has pushed ahead with the poll despite it lacking legal backing, given that legislation passed by the Generalitat, as the regional government is known, was suspended by the Constitutional Court.

Instead, Catalan regional premier Artur Mas has touted the vote as a non-binding “participative process” in which citizens from the region can voice their opinion on their future.

Voting centers have been facilitated by the regional government, with 40,000 volunteers assisting with the process

Voting centers have been facilitated by the regional government, with 40,000 volunteers assisting with the process. However, given the legal limbo of the vote, there will be no electoral commission in place to ensure a properly monitored process, while citizens will be permitted to write any idea they prefer relating to the future of Catalonia on a ballot paper and deposit it in the ballot boxes. The Generalitat has said these votes will be separated from the others – which will contain pre-agreed questions on possible independence for the region – and be classified as “other.”

Voters will also potentially be able to vote twice, given that there is no official census at the polls, while a person who no longer lives in Catalonia but whose official identity card (DNI) still carries their previous address in the region will not be able to cast a ballot. Conversely, someone who lives in Catalonia but whose DNI has not been updated will not be able to cast a vote.

On Sunday Catalonia regional premier Artur Mas stated that the vote “was not the definitive one, but it is very important.”