About 1.6 million people in Spain's northeastern region of Catalonia have voted in favour of breaking away from the country and carving out a new nation in a symbolic independence poll, according to partial official results.

Results released early on Monday with 88 percent of votes counted showed that over two million people voted and 1.6 million favoured forming a new nation.

More than five million were eligible to vote, meaning many did not bother to participate amid worries about the vote's lack of legal guarantees and its non-binding status.

Catalan lawmakers opted for the watered-down poll after plans to hold an official referendum on independence were suspended by Spain's Constitutional Court amid the central government's challenge that the referendum was unconstitutional. The court then suspended the mock vote on the same grounds.

Spanish state prosecutors said they were continuing an investigation to determine if by holding the informal vote the Catalan government had broken the law.

Justice Minister Rafael Catala called the vote "an act of propaganda organised by pro-independence forces and lacking any democratic validity."

The regional government defied the suspension, manning polling stations with 40,000 volunteers.

"Despite the enormous impediments, we have been able to get out the ballot boxes and vote,'' Catalan president Artur Mas said after casting his ballot at a school in Barcelona.

Polls in recent years say the majority of Catalonia's 7.5 million inhabitants want an official vote on independence, while around half support cutting centuries-old ties with Spain.

Sunday's symbolic vote was the latest massive pro-independence demonstration in the wealthy region fiercely proud of its own traditions and language.

Source: Agencies