Sabadell and Barcelona, two very different ways to do a referendum

Sabadell Decideix

Sabadell organised last sunday their referendum of independence. With a population of 200.000 people, Sabadell has been to date the biggest city to organise a referendum and obviously poses an organisational challenge. The results, 92,78% “Yes” votes against 5,3% “No” votes. Overall, 22608 votes that make up for a 13,87% turnout.

If you think this is low keep reading. This voting used 800 volunteers and around 60000 euros budget that came from donations. I’d obviously like a bigger turnout but this follows the trend seen in bigger cities from previous experience and considering the circumstances (no budget, not official, no direct political consequences from this exercise, only volunteer work, media void) the figures are pretty good.

This time the media void has been more obvious than ever, not any remarkable mention from any of the unionist media and only after the voting was closed.

However, the usual turnout criticisms that always came from the unionists the day after the votings have not been seen. Why? There’s an explanation. A couple of weeks ago Barcelona’s Mayor Jordi Hereu organised a referendum about the refurbishing of Avinguda Diagonal, one of Barcelona’s main entrances. Attempting to turn Barcelona citizens into improvised expert urban planners the referendum had several hundred full time civil servants assigned to it and an estimated 3 million euros budget. When the referendum started it was discovered that it was fraught with reliability problems and even voting fraud (anyone could vote online for you as long as they knew your ID and date of birth).

Result, after the 1 week voting period only a 12,7% turnout and 80% of that vote went to the, intentionally non advertised, C option: to leave Avinguda Diagonal just as it is now. Interpreted as a clear punishment against Hereu’s frivolous “referendum”. Hereu’s political career is basically over.

Not that a referendum per se is a bad thing and in my opinion Avinguda Diagonal does need some changes but definitely Hereu’s way is not the way of doing things, as the citizens have let him know.

The positive consequence of all this is that unionists and especially the Catalan government, in the hands of Hereu’s party, can no longer criticise the referendum’s turnout since a handful of volunteers with barely no budget and a lot of enthusiasm have ridiculed Hereu’s 3 million euros referendum and nobody to date has managed to question or criticise the democratic validity of the popular referendums, with open countings and international observers.

Only two rounds left, the one on Cornellà on June the 20th and the final one next year in Barcelona.

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