MORE than 80% of Catalunyan voters have elected to split from Spain and form an independent state.
Millions of people took part in Sunday’s controversial vote, which was changed from a referendum to an opinion poll following the legal restrictions imposed by the Spanish government.
The non-binding poll had been ruled as illegal by the Spanish courts, but went ahead nonetheless as the campaign for independence in Catalunya gathers momentum.
After 88% of the votes had been counted, results showed around 1.6 million of the 2 million-plus voters wanted independence.
Scuffles broke out across the region as tensions ran high, while large queues formed outside the polling stations.
Prime Minister Rajoy said the vote will have no effect and urged the region to return to ‘sanity’, but Catalan leader Artus Mas has warned against any attempt to disrupt it.
Unrest in Catalunya – a region of more than 7.5 million people – is due to the fact the region contributes more to the Spanish economy than it gets back through central government funds.
Mas said of the government’s attempt to stop the vote: “I don’t know what they will do, it does not depend on us, but if they have a minimum of common sense I think any action out of the ordinary would be a direct attack on democracy and a direct attack on fundamental rights.”
Rajoy, however, is demanding that the region take part in talks ‘within the legal framework of the constitution’, adding that the vote would be ‘neither a referendum nor a consultation nor anything of the sort’.
He said: “What is certain is that it will not have any effect.”