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article imageCatalans Vote to Leave Spain in Unofficial Referendum

By Derek Leschasin     Dec 15, 2009 in Politics
The Spanish government is dealing with fresh separatist sentiment in Catalonia this week, as an unofficial referendum held yesterday approved the concept of secession from Spain by a wide margin.
The vote was held by an array of nationalists and leftists in order to determine the strength of nationalist sentiment in the region.
Reuters reports that voter turnout was far below what organisers had expected, totalling only 30 per cent of 700 thousand voters in the region's Catalan-speaking heartland. Results so far indicate that approximately 95 per cent of those who voted back secession.
"This has been a powerful event that is going to push us towards independence," spokesperson Uriel Beltran told Reuters.
The vote holds no legal standing, but organisers say they hope to hold a bigger vote in the capital, Barcelona, next year.
In related news, The Guardian reports that Spain's constitutional court is preparing a ruling on the charter of autonomy which devolved powers to the regional government in 2006. The charter was appealed by the right-wing People's Party, and reports indicate the court may strike sections in the charter which grant Catalonia greater judicial autonomy, and define Catalonia as a "nation".
The post-Franco constitution of 1978 vaguely defines Catalans as a "nationality", fuelling calls from nationalists for greater independence, which would recognise what they see as a distinct culture with its own language and values.
The Spanish government has dealt for many decades with separatist movements in various regions of the country, including Galicia and the Basque region. Political violence and terrorism have sometimes been involved, most notably in the violent struggle against the infamous ETA, a designated terrorist group fighting for Basque independence.
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