Catalan Independence Referendum Passes Despite Spanish Intervention

The possible end to centuries of conflict.

Griffin Sonnemann-Creed, Columnist

Citizens of Catalonia, Spain, lined up to vote on a new referendum, in a possible final answer towards the centuries-old question – Is it possible for Catalonia to become an independent state?

Originally an independent kingdom, Catalonia was absorbed into the Kingdom of Aragon in 1137. Since then, the Catalan people have time and time again attempted to regain their independence, with this culminating in events such as the Catalan revolts of 1640-1652. This time, Catalonia is going for a more diplomatic route, by introduction of a new referendum, where the population will vote upon possible secession from the Kingdom of Spain.

Catalonia is the northeastern-most province of Spain. One of the most prominent economic areas of modern Europe, the province is an integral part of Spain’s economy. According to CNN, Catalonia makes up 25 percent of exports, 20 percent of the entire Spanish economy, and a staggering 20 percent of the Spanish tax base despite only having roughly 16 percent of the population. Due to the vital economic importance of Catalonia, Spanish authorities and the central government wish to prevent the possible loss of one of Spain’s most most well-developed provinces. However, their attempts to dissuade Catalonia have brought central government into conflict with the local populations.

In one of the most shocking events the morning of Oct. 1, Spanish riot police officers deployed to Catalonia brutally attacked Catalans who were rioting and voting, drawing mixed reactions from many other governments and the local population. Political figures such as Robert Mugabe, dictator of Zimbabwe, accused the Spanish government of being a dictatorship itself due to the brutality of their officers. On the other end, the European Union, despite Spain being a member state, has not offered much comment. According to The New York Times, some Catalan commentators are comparing the brutal crackdown to the harsh Franco regime. Despite these accusations, however, Spain has refused to back down.

The Spanish Constitution states that while all provinces have a degree of autonomy, being able to manage their economies, create their own laws, and have elections, it also states that the Spanish state as a whole is indivisible. Because of this, Spain, on Sept. 6, declared the referendum as unconstitutional, justifying the deployment of riot police to the province.

Despite these conflicts, the referendum passed with an overwhelming victory. As documented by the BBC, the President of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, stated that Catalonia had “won the right to statehood” in a press conference. In spite of these statements, though, the likelihood of Catalan independence is extremely low. Even if Catalonia is one of the foremost European economic powerhouse, the province would be unable to do anything if it did declare independence, with Spanish military occupation being the most likely scenario. It seems like Catalonia will have to wait for yet another chance for independence.