About 1.6 million people in Spain's northeastern region of Catalonia voted yesterday in favor of breaking away from the country in a mock independence poll, but more Catalans avoided voting, either because of the poll's questionable legality or their opposition to secession. Results released early this morning, with 88% of votes counted, showed that more than 2 million people voted in total. But 5.4 million were eligible to vote, meaning many didn't bother to participate in the nonbinding poll. Catalan lawmakers opted for the watered-down poll after plans to hold an official referendum on independence were suspended by Spain's Constitutional Court. "I voted for independence because I've always felt very Catalan," says one teacher. "Maybe I wasn't so radical before, but the fact that they are prohibiting (the vote) from Madrid has made me."
The court then suspended the mock vote on the same grounds Tuesday. But the regional government defied the suspension, manning polling stations with 40,000 volunteers. "Despite the enormous impediments, we have been able to get out the ballot boxes and vote," Catalan president Artur Mas said after depositing his ballot at a school in Barcelona. Polls in recent years say the majority of Catalonia's 7.5 million inhabitants want an official vote on independence, while around half support cutting centuries-old ties with Spain. Mas has said the vote was only symbolic. It likely will lead to regional elections that would stand in for a referendum on independence, unless the Spanish government relents. "We ask the world to help us convince the Spanish institutions that Catalonia deserves to vote a referendum to decide its future," Mas said.