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Catalan government fails to mobilize region’s expats in run-up to referendum

Of the 285,000 Catalans living abroad, just 5,000 have registered to vote in October 1 independence poll

The regional government of Catalonia’s plans for an independence referendum on October 1 have hit further problems: of the 285,000 Catalans living abroad who would be eligible to vote, barely 5,000 have registered, while an electronic voting system is not working.

Referendum Cataluña
Catalan regional deputy premier Oriol Junqueras, left, with premier Carles Puigdemont. EFE

Over recent months, the Foreign Affairs department at the Generalitat, as the region’s government is known, along with the privately run Catalan National Assembly (ANC), has been trying to rally support among Catalans living abroad for the proposed vote on October 1, despite fierce opposition from the central government in Madrid, which insists the poll would be illegal. A register of Catalans residing abroad was created in 2014, when the Generalitat sought support for its informal sovereignty referendum, which was held on November 9 of that year. Whether Catalans living in other parts of Spain will be able to vote in the October poll is unclear.

Whether Catalans living in other parts of Spain will be able to vote in the October poll is unclear

In November 2014, around 2.3 million people voted out of an eligible voter pool of 6.3 million, according to the regional government’s own figures. Although 80% voted in favor of independence, it was dismissed by international observers as lacking sufficient guarantees of objectivity, given that it was organized and counted by pro-sovereignty activists and that many people who want Catalonia to remain part of Spain did not participate.

The pro-independence alliance between PDeCAT and the ERC Republican Left that runs Catalonia wants Catalans living abroad to vote, but the idea has created divisions, with the two parties unable to agree which should take control of the campaign to get Catalans living abroad to register to vote in the referendum.

The Catalan regional government has so far failed to introduce measures in recently approved legislation covering the rights of Catalans living abroad. An official announcement from May suggested that Catalans resident overseas who want to vote in the October referendum would have to register.

Catalonia has so far failed to win much international support for independence

Meanwhile, on Sunday morning on Catalunya Ràdio, the ANC’s Jordi Sánchez said: “We have laid out very clearly the way to address the vote of Catalans living abroad and everybody is conscious that we need to move forward and with greater clarity.”

Catalonia has so far failed to win much international support for independence: in April, the US embassy in Madrid distanced itself from the matter.

Former Catalan premier Artur Mas and current regional premier Carles Puigdemont have also lobbied the EU over their bid to hold a referendum, but Brussels has also failed to support the project.

English version by Nick Lyne.

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