On Saturday in Madrid, civil society groups held a rally in opposition to the reelection of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez by a significantly fragmented parliament.
Both the leaders of the Popular Party, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, and of Vox, Santiago Abascal, participated in the protest alongside hundreds of thousands of individuals in the heart of Madrid, bringing the city to a halt.
Sánchez’s Socialist Party secured second place in an inconclusive July general election, but he struck deals with a number of smaller parties to secure their support in the parliamentary vote for another term, including Catalan and Basque separatists.
In order to gain the support of two Catalan separatist parties, he consented to grant an unpopular pardon to hundreds of individuals facing legal action for their involvement in Catalonia’s separatist movement over the past decade.
This encompasses the failed secession attempt of the affluent northeastern region in 2017, which encompassed a referendum marred by violence, prohibited by the courts, and followed by a short-lived declaration of independence.
The accords with the Catalan parties also entailed commencing discussions on the potential for an authorized referendum for the region’s independence, but within the legal framework of Spain’s Constitution. Sánchez has consistently affirmed that he would not authorize a vote that could lead to the breakup of Spain.
Detractors argue that the pardon is a self-serving measure to enable Sanchez to cling to power and accuse him of disregarding the rule of law. For over a week, thousands have congregated every evening outside the Socialist party’s headquarters in Madrid in rallies arranged by the far right against the pardon.
Certain protests have turned volatile. “We will continue to endorse all mobilizations and all appeals to oppose” this “government born from an unconstitutional pact,” stated Vox leader Santiago Adbasal, who has denounced the pardon deal as a “coup d’état.”
Exposing the tensions provoked by the pardon, dozens of retired right-wing generals issued a manifesto on Friday, appealing to “those responsible for defending the constitutional order” to “remove the prime minister” and “call” new elections.