Once again, many Spaniards have taken to the streets in Madrid to protest against the amnesty of Pedro Sánchez. The Spanish Prime Minister has pardoned several Catalans in exchange for support for a new term in office.
On Saturday, about 170,000 people gathered in central Madrid, according to the government. The organization, consisting of more than a hundred groups, even talks about almost 1 million demonstrators.
The leaders of the Popular Party (PP) and VOX were also present at the massive protest. Alberto Núñez Feijóo (PP) and his political partner Santiago Abascal (Vox) were also the initiators of previous major demonstrations against Sánchez in Madrid.
The populist PP won the Spanish parliamentary elections in July. Yet, together with the ultra-conservative Vox, they did not have a majority in parliament. Incumbent Prime Minister Sánchez of the social workers’ party PSOE succeeded, but he had to do so controversial amnesty law contract.
The PSOE, together with the very left-wing Sumar, managed to create one majority to get. The Catalan parties ERC and Junts provided support to the new government in exchange for the amnesty of more than a hundred Catalan separatists.
Video of riots during one of the earlier protests against the amnesty.
Uncertain whether Puigdemont will return to Catalonia
Among those many Catalans is the well-known exile Carles Puigdemont. He was the mastermind behind the controversial Catalan independence referendum of 2017. He has been in Brussels since then, but could return to Catalonia, although there are still some snags. For example, the Spanish Supreme Court still looks at the constitutionality of the amnesty law.
In any case, in a large part of Spain they do not agree with granting amnesty to the large group of Catalans. This is evident not only from the demonstration turnout this Saturday, but also from various polls in Spain. An overwhelming majority (the percentage is around 70 percent in most cases) are against the pardon of what they consider to be ‘traitors to the country’.
There is great unrest in Spain. Catalan former politician Alejo-Vidal Quadras was killed on the day the pardon deal was announced shot. Quadras was hit in the jaw. He has recently been very critical of Sánchez’s controversial plans to continue governing. The Spanish police see the incident as a targeted political attack.
Catalan independence referendum 2017
On October 1, 2017, the regional government of Catalonia held a referendum on declaring independence. A group of Catalan separatists led by Carles Puigdemont wanted to declare the Catalan Republic, independent of Spain.
The Spanish government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy (PP) strongly opposed the independence referendum. Spain’s constitutional court banned the referendum, but Catalonia allowed it to go ahead. The Spanish government then used violence to prevent people from going to the polls. More than a thousand people were injured.
Yet 42 percent of those eligible to vote were able to pass on their choice. No fewer than 90 percent voted for secession.