International media has been captivated by the referendum for Catalonia’s independence from Spain, which finally took place on October 1 after weeks of heated national debate. Despite resistance from military police and insistence from the Spanish government that said referendum was illegal, 90% of the almost 2.3 Catalonians who voted on Sunday have elected political sovereignty for their region.
As a nation, the country of Spain is split into several smaller regions known as ‘autonomous communities.’ These communities – Catalonia being one of them – all fall under the overarching national government of Spain. According to the Spanish Constitution of 1978, they are irrevocably bound together in ‘indissoluble unity.’
It is for this reason that Catalonia’s decision to hold a referendum on whether or not to remain a part of Spain has caused such controversy. Despite the Constitution stating the importance of a unified state, a significant number of Catalonians believe Catalonia to be its own nation independent from Spain. For centuries, Catalonia has had its own distinct language, culture and values separate from the rest of Spain. With Catalonian officials now complaining of the amount of tax revenue the region’s strong industrial sector must pay to the national government, the topic of Catalonia becoming an independent state has reared its head once more. In June of this year, a referendum was organized to take place on October 1 for Catalonians to vote for their region’s independence from Spain.
The Spanish government have been greatly opposed to said referendum, deeming it unconstitutional for threatening to split the autonomous communities forming Spain. State police entered Catalonia to seize any equipment that could be used for balloting purposes, while high-ranking Catalonian officials have been arrested. This has caused rising tension in the region, which spilled over on the day of the referendum. Multiple news outlets have reported the violent encounters between Catalonians who voted on this day and police forces who used physical resistance to prevent them.
Despite said resistance, enough of the Catalonian population have managed to vote that leader Carles Puigdemont has declared a majority vote in favour of independence. The result may not be surprising for some, but it does raise new questions over what the future of Catalonia and wider Spain will be. In an attempt to minimize economic and political fallout, Puigdemont has since requested external assistance from international leaders to help navigate relations in the country. With new developments coming to light every day, the Catalonian referendum is proving itself to be a fascinating news story to follow.