ONE thing is a regional election.
But another thing is a referendum to determine if a sector of a large population wants to break away from a country that people no longer feel they need to sustain them in the future.
The Catalans clearly liked their pro-independence leaders’ choices on such matters, including their proposed separatist drive plans.
On Sunday, voters in the northwest region gave hearty support to the pro-separatist coalition Junts pel Si which is expected to take a near majority of seats in the 135-member local parliament.
It wasn’t such a surprise that the independentistas were given such a clear victory.
The biggest eye-opener, however, was the amount of people who came out to cast ballots on Sunday.
Voter turnout was measured at more than 62% – the highest ever in Catalonia.
Yet the remarkable number of ballots cast cannot be seen as a bellwether for the independence movement.
It was a show of force by many Catalans who wanted Madrid to hear what they had to say about where they believe their future lies.
Almost half the seats in the regional parliament went to parties who do not support the separatists’ plans to unattach themselves from the rest of Spain.
The divisions in Catalonia are clearly deep and haven’t changed much since before the elections.
There was no dramatic swing from one side to the other.
Catalans are bitterly split over the issue, which will only go to show that the next government will face serious challenges in its everyday affairs.
Artur Mas’s stubborn drive to make Catalonia a new European country has left a bitter taste in the mouths of most Spaniards.
Whether he is elected to stay on a regional premier, Mas will struggle to try to mend the holes he made in his relationships with Spanish institutions and the prime minister himself.
The only way he can repair the damage done is by abandoning his plans for an immediate unilateral breakaway from the rest of the country and concentrate on the day-to-day administration of his region.