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Europe

Catalonia goes to the polls

media Voters cast their ballots in Barcelonam, 21 December Reuters.

Voting began in Catalonia Thursday. Latest polls, published by The National newspaper in Scotland Wednesday, indicate a small victory for the pro-independence parties.

Polls opened at 9 am this morning. “There were many people when the gates opened,” says Leila, a controller with the polling station at a library in the Centre Civic Atheneu at 10, Carrer de Ribes in Barcelona.

Voting begins

Observers said were seeing more people than in the past elections. Some polling offices had long lines outside and people had to wait up to 30 minutes to be able to cast their ballot.

According to a poll by The National, the turnout will be very high, possibly more than 82 percent. This is more than the 77 percent in the elections of 2015, and much higher than the 43 percent on 1st of October when Catalans voted in the referendum.

“We have to keep the unity of Spain, to fight against nationalism, because it is not the time. It is the time of globalization, integration, the European Union. Nationalism is not welcome here,” says Arial, who came to Barcelona from the Canary Islands to witness the voting process.

“The situation is lasting too long, it is enough. I hope the elections end this situation because people have waited too long.”

Voting is important, according to many who will be voting today. “I feel loneliness," says Eduardo, who voted for Carles Puigdemont, leader of the pro-independence Catalan European Democratic Party who is in self imposed exile in Brussels.

"Because I think that he is far away and he should not be there."

“The Spanish government has been absolutely hard, treating with this new article 155, resolving a properly elected parliament. The other thing is that here he is giving us a message of hope," he adds.

He predicts that if there is a massive turnout, Catalans “are going to get back our dignity as a country and we will go on and seek independence in the future.”

Middle of the road

Others want to go for the middle road, although they don’t approve of the way Spain handled the situation.

“These elections are odd,” says Jordi Matas, a councilor with the Eixample District, one of Barcelona’s ten administrative division.

“Catalan sovereignty has been suspended under Article 155 [of the Spanish constitution], we have several political prisoners during the campaign, some are the heads of some of the parties. One is in jail, the others are in Brussels, so it is not a normal campaign - It is a shame for democracy. They are campaigning for president and they cannot even be here for their campaign,” he says.

Matas himself is active in Barcelona En Comu, a citizens platform launched in 2014 under Xavier Domenech. Together with the left wing Podemos, they campaign to stay in Spain, but are critical of Madrid’s policies.

”We need this referendum [and the elections] so that the people are the ones that decide how Catalonia and Spain relate,” he says.

He hopes that whatever the outcome of the December 21 elections the Spanish government will be open to dialogue and listen to what public opinion in Catalonia.

“The Catalan parliament has asked several times that the Spanish government allows to do this [October 1] referendum, and they have consistently said no. We don’t even have the right to ask the people what they want,” he adds.

But he doesn’t believe that even if the Scottish predictions are right and the composition of the Catalan government will be the same as after the 2015 elections, the pro-independence parliamentarians will again seek confrontation with Madrid.

“All the new parliamentarians will have to sit down and talk about what new country they want to build,” he says, and what relationship Catalonia should have with Spain.

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