20 pct turnout in symbolic Catalan independence vote: organisers

26th April 2010, Comments 0 comments

Only about one in five eligible voters took part in fresh round of symbolic referendums held Sunday on whether the weathly region of Catalonia should secede from Spain, with the vast majority voting in favour, organisers said Monday.

A total of 20.2 percent of the 1.3 million eligible voters in the 211 towns and villages that held the vote cast ballots, compared to about 30 percent in a similar wave of referendums held on December 14 in 166 Catalan localities.

An overwhelming 92.7 percent of those who voted on Sunday said 'yes' to the question: "Do you agree that Catalonia become a social, democratic and independent state, and member of the European Union?".

Separatists however are much more likely to take part in the polls, organised by local associations and supported by some political parties, which have no legal significance as referendums must be mandated by the central government in order to be official.

But organisers hoped that a result in favour of independence, coupled with a good turnout, would push the issue up the political agenda throughout Spain.

Leaders of the campaign had initially set as a target for turnout in the referendums of 40 percent.

In December's referendums 94 percent of Catalans answered "yes" to the same question.

Separatists however are much more likely to take part in a vote which Spain's central government has dismissed as illegitimate.

Sunday's vote came some 10 days after another delay to the decision by Spain's Constitutional Court on the legality of the region's statute of autonomy, approved in 2006, which gave the regional parliament enhanced powers.

A sizeable minority in Catalonia, which is home to some seven million people and whose capital is Barcelona, would like to see the region break away from Spain.

They complain that the region, which is heavily industrialised and accounts for 25 percent of Spain's gross domestic product and has its own Catalan language, contributes far more to the Spanish economy than it gets in return.

© 2010 AFP

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