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Catalan nationalists hail symbolic vote, Madrid slams 'sterile' act

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Catalan nationalists hail symbolic vote, Madrid slams 'sterile' act

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The head of Catalonia’s government says the region has earned the right to a referendum on independence from Spain.

Artur Mas was speaking as he cast his vote in Sunday’s informal “consultation”, called in defiance of the central government in Madrid and after Spain’s Constitutional Court blocked plans for a formal vote.

“We are doing a great thing in Catalonia by defending our right to free expression and steering the political future of this country,” he said.

The authorities said that by six in the evening, two hours before polls closed, two million Catalans had cast their ballots.

That represents fewer than half the more than five million eligible to vote.

Pro-independence supporters had campaigned for a high turnout, and hope the vote will propel their cause further.

The reaction from Madrid was dismissive. On Sunday night Spain’s Justice Minister Rafael Catala called the vote in Catalonia a “sterile and useless” act of propaganda.

The head of Spain’s ruling party in Catalonia, Alicia Sanchez-Camacho, said the exercise was a sham because if offered no democratic or legal guarantees and wasn’t backed by central government.

Reporting for euronews from Barcelona, correspondent Cristina Giner said: “So ends an intense day of voting, in which Catalans have been able to have their say in an alternative consultation which has no legal but a highly symbolic effect.”