Informal breakaway ballot for Catalonia

More than a million voters participated yesterday in an informal vote on whether Catalonia should secede from the rest of Spain, officials said.

The regional Catalan government pushed forward with the vote despite Spain’s Constitutional Court ordering its suspension last Tuesday after it agreed to hear the Spanish government’s challenge that the poll was unconstitutional.

The Catalan government said that more than 1.1 million of the 5.4 million eligible voters had voted by 1pm local time at polling stations manned with more than 40,000 volunteers. Results are expected this morning.

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“Despite the enormous impediments, we have been able to get out the ballot boxes and vote,” regional president Artur Mas said after depositing his ballot at a school in Barcelona.

The ballot asks voters two questions: should Catalonia be a state, and if so, should it be independent.

Polls show that the majority of Catalonia’s 7.5 million inhabitants want an official vote on independence while around half support breaking centuries-old ties with Spain.

Catalonia’s push for independence comes two months after Scots voted to remain in the United Kingdom.

Mr Mas has said the vote, which lacks guarantees such as an electoral roll, is only symbolic.

Spanish state prosecutors announced on Saturday that they were opening an investigation to determine if by holding the informal vote in defiance of the court’s suspension the Catalan government has broken the law.