Constituents in Spain’s Catalonia region voted for independence in a disputed referendum Sunday that left more than 800 people injured after Spanish riot police used batons and rubber bullets on civilians attempting to cast their ballots.
Catalonia has “won the right to become an independent state,” the Associated Press quoted Catalan President Carles Puigdemont as saying after the polling. He also promised to make good on an election pledge to unilaterally declare independence for the region should its constituents vote “yes” in the referendum.
Puigdemont added that he would ask the European Union to investigate human rights violations during the vote and accused Spain of writing “another shameful page in its history with Catalonia.”
Some 90% of the 2.26 million Catalans who voted cast ballots in favor of independence with 15,000 votes left to count, according to Catalan regional government officials. Some among the 5.3 million people eligible to vote in the region were prevented from doing so after police seized ballot papers, AP reports.
On the face of it, the results of the referendum appear to indicate a strong preference for Catalan independence from Spain. But here’s why that’s unlikely to actually happen.
What is Catalonia and why is it holding a vote?
Catalonia is a region in Spain that is separated from France by the Pyrenees Mountain Range to the North. It stretches along the Mediterranean Coast encompassing Spain’s second city Barcelona, before ending above Valencia — the region has been a part of Spain since the 15th century.
Secessionists have long argued that Catalonia — whose economy is larger than Portugal’s and generates about a fifth of Spain’s total GDP — gives way more than it gets. It’s an argument that has gained traction in the wake of 2008’s global financial crash. According to Reuters, Catalonia contributes $12 billion more taxes than it gets back from Madrid, whereas Spain’s poorest region Andalusia, receives $9.5 billion more than it pays in.
Read more: What to Know About the Catalan Independence Referendum
But identity politics as well as economic issues factor in a region that still stings from Francisco Franco’s fascist regime. The Spanish dictator banned the Catalan language from the school system and suppressed Catalan institutions. After the government refused to allocate more funds to the region or give it fiscal independence in 2012, some argued that Catalans are still being…