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    Catalonia votes on independence from Spain

    This weekend, 700,000 people in Catalonia are eligible to vote in the region’s first ever referendum on independence from Spain.

    By Sarah Rainsford BBC News, Catalonia:

    Flag on street, Catalonia

    Organised by activists and volunteers, the vote is not officially binding but it is taking place at a tense time in relations with Madrid.

    Supporters hope it is the first step towards a formal ballot for a separate state.

    Deep in the nationalist heartland of Catalonia, campaigners have been drumming up support for the vote.

    In the medieval town of Vic, hundreds of residents have already cast an early ballot at a tent in a corner of the main square.

    Many say the autonomy Catalonia already has is not enough, and they are voting “Yes” to independence.

    “More and more people think we have no room in the Spanish house, so we need a house of our own,” organiser Alfons Lopez Tema says.

    “[The Spanish] don’t want us, they don’t love us, they don’t give us what we want. So the best thing is to vote and decide.”


    Almost 170 Catalan towns and villages are holding ballots, staffed by thousands of volunteers.

    Vic has traditionally favoured independence but the vote will be a first indication of whether views here are spreading.

    The referendum has been the topic of daily debate on local radio.

    Speaking Catalan on air was forbidden as subversive during General Franco’s dictatorship.

    Today, it is an official language, used in schools and government, and Catalonia itself has broad autonomy.

    But three years ago, people across Catalonia voted for more. They approved a new statute – the law that sets out the relationship between Catalonia and the Spanish state – which defined this part of eastern Spain as a distinct nation.

    It gave more jurisdiction to the local authorities and what many believe is a fairer share of the revenue collected.

    For the moderate-minded majority of Catalans, that was enough.

    The law was approved in a referendum, passed by the Catalan and Spanish parliaments and signed by the king.

    But Spain’s main opposition party is contesting the statute in the Constitutional Court and many Catalans fear key provisions of the law will soon be overturned.

    People are disillusioned by what’s happened

    “People are disillusioned by what’s happened. They’re fed up. That’s why so many are involved in organising this vote,” Vic Radio presenter Joan Turro explains during a break in the schedule.

    “People here in the interior of Catalonia have always wanted independence. We want this vote to show that it’s not just us now.”

    Many people in Catalonia say they feel different from the rest of Spain, with their own distinct language, culture and history.

    Sunday’s referendum will test how far that feeling translates into actual support for a separate state.



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