BARCELONA (AFP) - Catalan government head Artur Mas urged the world help him persuade Spain to allow it an independence referendum, after over two million people took part in a symbolic ballot Sunday.
"We ask the world to help us to convince Spanish institutions that Catalonia deserves to vote in a referendim to decide its future," he told reporters in Barcelona after polls closed in the symbolic referendum.
"We deserve to vote in a legal and binding referendum and this is what we are are going to try to do," he added.
Early results showed just over 80 per cent of the roughly two million people who took part in the symbolic referendum in the wealthy northeastern region backed independence.
In Barcelona and other cities voters of all ages formed long queues before polling stations opened.
The poll was held in the face of fierce opposition from the Spanish government, and despite a constitutional court ruling to suspend the exercise. It was organised by thousands of volunteers.
Most anti-independence parties were opposed to the poll and urged their backers to not take part.
Catalan leaders admit the vote has no direct legal consequences, but hope that a high turnout will bolster their political case with both Madrid and other European governments The Catalan National Assembly, a grass-roots group that has pushed for an official referendum, collected signatures at polling stations on a petition that will be sent to the United Nations and the European Commission asking for their help to convince Spain to let Catalonia hold an official referendum.