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Catalonia Holds Informal Vote on Secession From Spain

Pro-independence demonstrators of Catalonia and Basque Country raise their regional flags as they gather on a square to support an informal independence poll to celebrate in Catalonia, in Pamplona northern Spain, Nov. 9, 2014.

Hundreds of thousands of Catalans seeking independence from Spain voted Sunday in a symbolic poll praised by regional leaders but dismissed by the Spanish government as invalid.

The so-called "consultation of citizens" in the northeastern region was held despite a ban on the polling from the Madrid government.

Pro-secession leaders had voiced hope that a high turnout would nudge authorities in Madrid toward talks on more political autonomy. But late Sunday, Justice Minister Rafael Catala called the non-binding poll "political propaganda… devoid of any democratic validity."

A short while later, regional government leader Artur Mas, who placed Sunday's turnout at more than two million, told supporters the vote was a "historic success" and said Catalans had earned the right to a binding referendum.

Results are expected Monday.

Pre-vote polling showed as many as 80 percent of the 7.5 million people in the region want more autonomy from Spain, with about 50 percent in favor of complete independence.

Catalonia is one of Spain's wealthiest regions. Its long-standing desire for independence has been fueled more recently by the country's deep recession over the past few years.

The region formally declared itself a nation in 2006, but Spain’s Constitutional Court later overruled that declaration.

Material for this report came from AP and Reuters.

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