It was a state of siege... you had to be appalled
A NORTH Wales MP who witnessed police raiding a polling station and taking ballot papers during Catalonia’s independence referendum has slammed the “disgraceful” behaviour of the officers and the Spanish government.
Hywel Williams joined a delegation of European politicians who observed the vote, which saw more than 890 civilians and 430 police injured as officers tried to disperse voters.
The Plaid MP for Arfon, who chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group on Catalonia, has called on Spain to recognise the result of the ballot, which saw more than 90% of the 2.26 million voters back independence.
“The way the Spanish government behaved is disgraceful, and an affront to democracy,” said Mr Williams, following his return to Wales.
“That so many turned out, despite the Spanish government and the Guardia Civil’s efforts to scare them away, is remarkable.
“The people who voted showed a lot of perseverance.
“We saw people who’d waited many decades to have a say on Catalonia’s future.
“It was like a state of siege at times, but the polling officials still did all they could to maintain democracy.”
According to Mr Williams, election staff faced their computer networks being shut down by Spanish authorities, while he saw members of the Guardia Civil confiscating ballot papers from a school being used as a polling station near Barcelona.
“Even though we were there as international observers, acting in an impartial capacity, you couldn’t help be apalled by some of the actions of the Spanish government,” he said. “The aim of the operation was clearly to intimidate people not to vote. “I saw for myself ballot papers being taken away and unwarranted road blocks being put in place.”
The report published by the delegation said they were “impressed by the patient, determined and non-violent behaviour of the huge PICTURES MAIN AND FAR LEFT: HYWEL WILLIAMS MP number of people who voted”.
But it also reported: “We wish to express abhorrence at the violence of the Spanish state that brought about more than 800 individuals being injured, the electronic sabotage deployed against the democratic vote and the removal of ballot boxes by Spanish state forces.”
Mr Williams has now managed to secure a 30-minute debate at Westminster Hall called The Implications of the Catalan Referendum for the European Union.
Despite the Spanish government’s insistence that the referendum was illegal, Mr Williams believes there’s “no chance” that things can return to how they were.
“There simply has to be dialogue between Barcelona and Madrid now,” he said.
There were also demonstrations at Caernarfon’s Maes land one in Llangefni on Anglesey.
● Far left, Hywel Williams MP with one of the ballot papers used in the referendum in Catalonia; above, long queues to vote; left, scene from the police intervention