THOUSANDS of people took to the streets of Madrid on Sunday to join a protest led by the conservative Popular Party against a potential amnesty for Catalan separatists who were involved in the independence drive in the region in 2017.
Although such an amnesty has yet to be officially announced or confirmed by the caretaker Socialist Party-led government, it is one of the demands that has been imposed by Catalan pro-independence parties if they are to support the bid of acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez to be voted back into power at a future investiture vote, in the wake of the inconclusive July 23 general elections.
Carrying Spanish flags and banners with slogans, crowds took to the streets at midday Sunday in the capital to support the demonstration, which was also attended by PP leader Alberto Nuñez Feijoo, Madrid regional premier Isabel Diaz Ayuso, and former PP prime ministers Mariano Rajoy and Jose Maria Aznar.
Speaking ahead of the protest, at which both ex-PMs were scheduled to make speeches, Aznar called the plan ‘camouflaged’ self-determination’ for Catalunya, while Rajoy called the amnesty ‘absolutely immoral’, and aimed at the ‘personal interests’ of Pedro Sanchez to stay in power.
Ahead of the protest, the PP said that it was hoping to bring as many as 10,000 people out onto the street, and had hired dozens of coaches to bring demonstrators to the Spanish capital from all over the country.
The demonstration came just two days ahead of the investiture vote in Congress at which Feijoo will be presented as the prime ministerial candidate.
He was nominated for the vote by the Spanish king, Felipe VI, on the basis that the PP won the election with the most votes.
However, the bid is almost certainly doomed to fail. Feijoo fell well short of a majority at the election and has only secured the support of far-right Vox and two seats from minor parties. This will not be enough support for him to be voted in as prime minister and form a government.
The Catalan Republican Left (ERC) and Together for Catalunya are the two parties who are demanding an amnesty in exchange for supporting Sanchez’s bid to stay in power.
Together for Catalunya is led by Carles Puigdemont, who was the regional premier in Catalunya at the time of the 2017 independence drive, which saw an illegal referendum on secession from Spain held, followed by a unilateral declaration of independence passed in the region’s parliament.
Puidgemont fled Spain in the wake of those events and has since been living in self-imposed exile in Brussels, and is currently a Member of the European Parliament. He would be the most high-profile beneficiary of any amnesty.
Two years ago, Sanchez pardoned nine of the Catalan independence leaders who were tried and jailed for their role in the secessionist push of 2017 in a bid to seek a political solution to the tensions between the region and the central government.