I’ve made more than my fair share of wisecracks here about encouraging California to “Calexit” their way into having their own country. But that’s something that’s far easier said than done, as a couple of regions on the other side of the ocean have been demonstrating this past month. The latest is the Catalonia region of Spain, which has long been making noises about breaking away from Madrid and planting their own flag. Against the demands of the Spanish government, Catalonians headed to the polls today to vote in a non-binding referendum on independence.
Well.. at least some of them did. Others were unable to. Starting yesterday, police were sent out to block off many schools which were supposed to be used as polling places. (Reuters)
Spain’s government said on Saturday police had sealed off 1,300 of 2,315 schools in Catalonia which had been designated as polling stations for a banned independence referendum. An official government source said 163 schools which have been earmarked as voting centers have been occupied by families.
People supporting the referendum have camped out overnight in schools in an effort to prevent an order by the head of the Catalan regional police to evacuate and close polling stations by 6 a.m. on Sunday, before the voting is due to open at 9 a.m.
Some of the schools wound up reopening in time for the vote today, while others remained blockaded. But those weren’t the only problems confronting prospective voters. The police were out in force, going after pro-independence protesters, in some cases firing rubber bullets into the crowds and attempting to disperse them. (NBC News)
Spanish armed police converged on polling stations in Catalonia early Sunday as defiant voters attempted to take part in a banned referendum on independence from Madrid.
In the region of Girona, officers scuffled with angry voters before smashing their way into a school being used as a polling station and seized ballot boxes as voting began.
There were also reports of armed police clashing with voters outside polling centers in Barcelona, according to Reuters. Crowds who turned out early to vote were chanting “we are the people of peace,” it reported.
In addition to crowd dispersal, police reportedly seized ballot boxes at some polling locations and hauled them away. If they’re trying to lay the groundwork for delegitimizing the referendum they’re off to a good start. First of all, the vote was technically illegal to begin with. But now, with a significant number of polling locations closed and boxes of ballots missing, Madrid is likely building a case that the vote results wouldn’t be “official” anyway given that the true totals will never be known.
This isn’t something new for Catalonia. They had achieved quasi-independent status as an autonomous region back in the early 1920s, maintaining that condition until Generalissimo Francisco Franco (who is still dead, by the way) abolished the notion in 1938 after the Spanish civil war, along with pretty much anything else he didn’t like. The movement was revived after his death in the 70s, but focused primarily on autonomy rather than complete independence.
But now it seems that a significant majority of Catalonians want to fully revolt and split off into a new country. When they held a non-binding referendum on the subject in 2014 the results were more than 80% in favor of independence. It should be noted, however, that the turnout was recorded as only being in the roughly 35% range. Much like this week’s vote, people who are opposed to independence largely say that they will not be taking part since the vote is illegal to begin with. In other words… it’s complicated.
So what happens in the most extreme scenario if the Catalonian government declares that they are splitting off? Is it another Spanish Civil War? That’s hard to imagine in this day and age, but I suppose it could happen. The rest of the nations in the region likely won’t be fans, however. Look at what’s going on with the Kurds in Iraq right now. They can’t even get the United States to back their push for statehood. Most of the rest of the EU would likely take Madrid’s side or, at best, treat is as a “local issue” that the Spanish need to sort out for themselves.
Do you really suppose that the U.S. would want to get involved in that mess? Don’t hold your breath. We’ve got enough of our own problems with California.