Speed Reads

Elections don't always have consequences

Catalans overwhelmingly back independence in largely consequence-free referendum

On Sunday, Catalans in and outside of the semi-autonomous northeastern region of Spain voted in an unsanctioned referendum on seceding from Spain. According to Joana Ortega, vice president of Catalonia, more than 2 million people cast ballots in the "consultation of citizen," and 80.72 percent of them backed full independence, according to nearly complete results.

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"We have earned the right to a referendum," regional president Artur Mas told a cheering crowd in Barcelona — in recognition that this was not, legally speaking, a referendum. Unlike September's vote in Scotland, Catalonia didn't actually have to decide on whether to sever ties with Spain. Also, since Spain's Constitutional Court declared Catalonia's proposed official (but still nonbinding) referendum illegal, Sunday's vote was organized and run by grassroots pro-independence groups, not the regional government.

Catalonia's independence movement has a long history, including a period of regional linguistic and cultural repression under longtime Spanish dictator Francisco Franco. Now, along with cultural reasons, Catalonia has financial incentives to leave Spain — the wealthy region sends more to the central government than it receives.