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Low-key referendum backs Catalan independence

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Low-key referendum backs Catalan independence


One of Spain’s wealthiest regions has made a symbolic bid for independence, in an unofficial vote watched closely by other wantaway groups – notably the Basque country. The result in Catalunya was never in doubt despite a poor 30 per cent turnout. While many Catalans are happy with the status quo, 94 per cent of those who bothered to vote backed a split from Madrid.

Opinion polls say about one-in-five Catalans support the idea of independence, although separatist parties have never won more than 16 per cent in official elections.

“There are parliamentary elections next year in Catalunya, said Carles Ribes, the mayor of the town of L’Arboc. “Following this result all parties will have to decide whether we need a national referendum. This time an official vote, not like this non-binding one.”

Spain’s 17 regions already enjoy considerable self-government. The Basque country is infamous for ETA’s violent separatist campaign, while Catalunya has generally preferred a less aggressive stance.

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