Over one hundred thousand people demonstrated today in Spain against the planned amnesty for Catalan separatists. The amnesty was promised by interim Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to two Catalan separatist parties, to secure their support for another four-year term, which is expected to be confirmed in the coming days. Participants in Madrid’s largest demonstration brandished placards reading “No to amnesty, yes to the Constitution” and “Sánchez traitor”. Representatives of the largest opposition party, the conservative People’s Party (PP), argued that democracy in Spain was in danger. For PP leader Alberto Núñez Feijóo, the protests will continue until new elections are called. The organizers estimate the number of participants in the demonstrations in Madrid alone at 500 thousand, while the government spoke of 80 thousand. No data is currently available for the entire country.
Spain went to the polls last July. Pressure is growing on Sánchez, of the Socialist Party (PSOE), who must form a new government by November 27: if he fails to do so, early elections should be held on January 14. Spain’s conservatives are skeptical about concessions to separatists, while the right-wing populist party Vox wants to ban these parties completely. Some PSOE voters are irritated, also because during the electoral campaign Sánchez had ruled out not only a referendum on the secession of Catalonia from Spain, as in 2017, but also an amnesty for separatists. But when, after the July 23 elections, it became clear that he could only govern with the help of separatist parties, he opened up to an amnesty. Sánchez says his goal is to defuse the conflict in Catalonia through dialogue and compromise. The People’s Party had called demonstrations for Sunday in the capitals of all the provinces of the country. Vox and the small, liberal-leaning centrist Ciudadanos (Citizens) party also joined.
Although Feijóo received the most votes in the July elections, he failed to create a majority in Parliament, because parties other than the PP did not want to join an alliance that would have included Vox, which represents the far right in Spain , including those nostalgic for Francoism. Catalonia has long created problems for the central government in Madrid. On October 1, 2017, a referendum was held by the regional government of Catalonia on secession from Spain, without the authorization of the central government. The Spanish police, in some cases, used force to prevent the counting. The yes vote won, but the Spanish Constitutional Court declared the referendum illegal. Catalonia, a rich region in northeastern Spain, was then temporarily placed under the direct rule of Madrid. Regional leader Carles Puigdemont and some of his companions then fled abroad. Other separatists were sentenced to long prison terms, but were pardoned in 2021