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Most Catalans consider referendum neither valid nor legal, says new poll

Mestroscopia survey for EL PAÍS shows that same percentage of respondents want the regional government to switch to a new negotiation strategy

The opposition walks out of parliament in protest on Thursday.
The opposition walks out of parliament in protest on Thursday.

A majority of Catalans, 56%, feel that the independence referendum announced by the regional government for October 1 is neither valid nor legal, considering the voting conditions and the way lawmakers got the referendum law passed.

A new survey by polling firm Metroscopia for EL PAÍS carried out ahead of Monday’s La Diada, regarded as Catalonia's national day and that in previous years has attracted large pro-independence marches, shows that the same percentage of citizens supports a shift in strategy toward a negotiated solution, mirroring Basque nationalism. Proponents of negotiation edge out supporters of a unilateral referendum by nearly 20 points.

Last week, Catalan separatists – who have a slim majority in the regional parliament – passed two laws enabling the referendum to take place and setting out rules for Catalonia’s hypothetical transition into an independent republic. The Metroscopia survey polled 1,000 residents throughout this week.

The greatest division of opinion concerns the controversial way in which the referendum law was passed in the Catalan parliament

Respondents also expressed their discontent with the central government in Madrid: 82% of Catalans feel that the attitude of the Mariano Rajoy administration has reinforced separatist sentiment in Catalonia, rather than weakening it.

The notion of holding a referendum on Catalonia’s future has been on the regional agenda for years, but respondents were unconvinced by the way that Catalan premier Carles Puigdemont is proposing to hold it, without state-wide agreement and without democratic safeguards that will ensure the process is valid.

Only 38% of those polled said the referendum seemed valid to them, compared with 56% who rejected it. Most significantly, some of those who rejected it, and many of those who were uncertain, said they vote for the two groups behind the referendum: the ruling Junts pel Sí coalition and their partners in the small anti-capitalist CUP party.

Fully 20% of voters of Junts pel Sí – a combination of the Democratic Party of Catalonia (formerly known as Convergència) and the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) – feel that the referendum cannot be considered either legal or internationally valid.

That figure rises to 26% among supporters of CUP, whose 10 regional deputies have provided pivotal support to Junts pel Sí inside the Catalan parliament, particularly on independence issues.

Respondents also expressed their discontent with the central government in Madrid

As for the opposition groups Popular Party (PP), Ciudadanos and the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), all of whom reject the referendum, their voters all firmly share this rejection. Things are not so clear with voters of the leftist group Catalunya Sí que es Pot, which includes Podemos. The poll showed that 15% believe the referendum should be considered legal and internationally valid.

By age groups, the youngest respondents were more critical of the referendum’s legal status. Two out of every three respondents who were under 34 rejected it. Adults between 54 and 64 were more lenient, with 42% of them accepting it as valid.

The greatest division of opinion concerns the controversial way in which the referendum law was passed in the Catalan parliament on Wednesday of last week. The Metroscopia poll was conducted a day later, and shows that 44% of Catalans reject it while 41% support a fast-track procedure that skipped many of the steps normally involved in the passage of a law, including submittal to the Catalan government’s own oversight body, the Council of Statutory Guarantees.

As many as 56% of respondents also reject the voting conditions set by the referendum law, which says that there is no minimum turnout rate and that anything above 50% of a yes vote will be enough to declare independence. Even 52% of CUP voters feel that a very high turnout rate should be a requisite.

English version by Susana Urra.

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