The numbers are overwhelming for a little country of 7 million people. An unprecedented case in the world. Catalans have organised themselves acting as a State to organise a radical democratic display. 60000 volunteers (the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games gathered 30000 volunteers and was considered exceptional), 500000 million votes cast, 4 rounds of referendums and more than 400 towns and villages, including two of the Catalan capitals, Girona and Lleida. Yesterday the hashtag used to tweet about the referendum, #consultes, was at the top 4 trending topics in Spain during the whole day. An incredible effort that shows that in Catalonia the political option with the greatest support is independentism.
The Spanish media and the unionist Catalan media have tried to use the 20,8% turnout in this round to qualify them as a failure but they intentionally attempt to hide the real meaning behind the numbers. The smaller percentages are partly because the last two rounds have also involved bigger towns and cities and therefore organisation is much more difficult, especially with the official institutions not only ignoring it but in many cases actively blocking the organisers. Just a note, all criticism has targeted the turnout, nobody has attempted to question the methodology or validity of the referendums.
Considering that the traditional Catalan media (including TV3, the catalan TV, influenced by the unionist party PSC) have intentionally ignored them, that official votings require millions in expenses and that these referendums won’t have any immediate political consequences a 20,8% turnout means a huge success. Anyone who insists in denying its strength or claiming that the remainder 79% would vote against independence is making a big mistake or has deeper and darker reasons to despise a popular exercise of democracy like this. And anyway, if they believe the NO will win so overwhelmingly why are the Spanish so scared of them that they don’t want us to organise one?
The first round back in December was seen as a defiance to Spain so it was easier for it to achieve a 30% turnout, the newness. However, I completely agree with my colleague Manel Bargalló (link in catalan). Voting this time was an act of political activism. Having this amount of independence activists means that the independence choice has effectively no ceiling in Catalonia and means that Catalans of all ages, social backgrounds and political ideas agree that Catalonia needs its own State.
But above all these referendums have served a bigger purpose, to create an extremely active transversal network bringing together the underlying independentist movements and associations from where the leaders who are leading the way towards independence are emerging.
There will be another round in June, involving only a few dozen towns. After that everyone will be watching Barcelona, where the referendum will take place on April the 10th, 2011.
I have no doubt that if a binding referendum was organised tomorrow the YES would overwhelmingly win.