Sunday, November 9, 2014 11:38 pm
Nearly two million people voted on Sunday as polling neared its close in Catalonia’s disputed symbolic ballot on independence from Spain, the regional government said.
By 6:00 pm (1700 GMT), two hours before polls were due to close, 1,977,531 voters had cast ballots across Catalonia, the region’s vice-president Joana Ortega told reporters.
The head of the Catalan regional government, Artur Mas, called the symbolic referendum a “total success”.
“Catalonia has once again shown that it wants to govern itself,” he added in Barcelona after polls closed across the northeastern region of Spain.
But Spanish Justice Minister Rafael Catala dismissed the vote as useless and fruitless.
“The government considers this to be a day of political propaganda organised by pro-independence forces and devoid of any kind of democratic validity,” he said in a statement.
“Citizens have been encouraged to take part in a fruitless and useless exercise,” he added in the central government’s first reaction to the turnout figures of the ballot which was held despite having been suspended by the Constitutional Court.
“Spain is a consolidated democratic regime, where there is freedom of speech and expression and in which referendums are governed by strict rules ensuring impartiality and neutrality. None of this requirements were met today.”
He said state prosecutors were continuing to investigate to see if Catalan authorities breached court injunctions by opening polling stations and mailing campaign material to “assess the existence of criminal liability”.