Protestors took to the streets of Spain on Sunday to voice their rejection of an amnesty deal between the Socialist Party (PSOE) and Catalan separatist groups that will potentially see thousands of people escape prosecution or be pardoned for their role in the 2017 independence drive in the northeastern region.
The demonstrations were organised by the conservative Popular Party (PP) and backed by far-right Vox. Both of these groups are staunchly opposed to the move by the PSOE’s caretaker prime minister, Pedro Sanchez, claiming that he is doing whatever it takes to stay in power, and risks the fracture of Spain.
Speaking at the largest of the protests, in Madrid’s central Puerta del Sol square, PP leader Alberto Nuñez Feijoo called for fresh elections, after the July 23 snap vote returned an inconclusive result.
“What will be voted this week in Congress is the opposite of what was voted for at the polls, for the first time in Spanish history,” said Feijóo to a crowd of 80,000 people, according to figures from the central government’s delegation in Madrid.
Feijoo won the most votes at the polls but fell well short of a majority in the lower house of parliament, the Congress of Deputies. He was invited by Spain’s King Felipe VI to form a government but even with the support of Vox and two small parties was unable to muster enough support.
This prompted the king to invite Pedro Sanchez to do the same. The PSOE leader has so far secured the support of future coalition partner Sumar, a leftist alliance, as well as the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV).
The amnesty deal, which also includes the pardoning of debt for Catalunya and a framework for negotiations on the future of the region, has been agreed with the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) and Together for Catalunya, which will now support Sanchez at an investiture debate and vote that is expected to take place this week in Congress.
“Spaniards will not accept that the leadership of Spain is put up for sale,” Feijoo continued at the protest on Sunday. “Spaniards want democracy, equality, justice and dignity.”
The demonstrations came in the wake of a week of protests held outside PSOE headquarters across the country. In Madrid, the protests were at times violent, with clashes between far-right demonstrators and riot police.
Sunday’s events, however, were peaceful, with slogans on placards such as: “Spain has just woken up”, “¡Viva España!” and “Sanchez, for the good of Spain go”.
After the demonstration in Madrid, which began at 12pm and finished an hour later, many of the protestors made their way to the PSOE headquarters in Ferraz street, urged on via Twitter by Vox leader Santiago Abascal.
According to press reports, by around 3.45pm there were far-right protestors present in the area, shouting foul-mouthed insults toward Pedro Sanchez and left-wing parties.
Sanchez’s investiture vote and debate is due to be held this week in Congress, although a date has yet to be set. While the caretaker prime minister is expected to return to power, should his bid fail Spaniards will have to return to the polls in January of next year.