Protests have taken place throughout Spain after the government offered amnesty to those who held an illegal separatist referendum six years ago.
The demonstrations were held on Sunday, November 11, the largest of which took place outside the headquarters of the governing Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE).Many of the protestors were seen holding EU flags, and banners that read “respect of the constitution”.
The leader of the caretaker party and acting prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, gained the backing of Catalan separatist Junts party to form a new government after the centre-right Populist Party (PP) failed to form a majority in the 2023 elections in July.
Sánchez managed to gain support from Junts to form a new government by promising to pardon the two main parties that sought to see Catalan’s independence from Spain in the failed 2017 election.
The agreement between PSOE and Junts was set out “to open a new stage and contribute to resolving the historic conflict over Catalonia’s political future,” sources from the Financial Times said.
But Presidency Minister Félix Bolaños has said in a letter released to Politico that the caretaker government could not propose any new laws: “Any bill that may be registered in the Congress of Deputies [Spain’s parliament] will come from the parliamentary groups and not from the council of ministers”.
The leader of the Populist Party, Alberto Núñez Feijoo, told demonstrators in Madrid's Puerta del Sol square, according to the BBC and The Guardian, that “We will not shut up until there are new elections. What is being done now is the contrary of what [Spaniards] voted for."
Feijoo went on to accuse Sánchez of “buying his investiture in return for giving his partners judicial impunity”
“The office of prime minister of Spain can’t be an object to be bought and sold”.
“Spaniards want democracy, equality, justice and dignity. Spain has never sold itself, and they [the PSOE] have tried to cover up the fact that they lost. The prime minister of Spain will always be the person that’s won the elections.”
The PP’s representative for Madrid, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, said that the prime minister: “decided that he will not lose power, whatever the cost for Spain; that nothing and no one will take it from him,” she said. “He’s decided to dynamite the rules of the game and to suppress institutions and state powers.”
One of the protestors in Madrid, Reuters reported, held up a sign stating “Sanchez as a traitor” and said that “he has betrayed coexistence, democracy...he can't keep governing.”
"Many people that I know who vote for the Socialists feel absolutely disappointed because... Sanchez never said the amnesty would be part of his programme," said another of the demonstrators.
Members of Spain’s parliament, Congress of Deputies, have criticised the accord, with the leader of the hard-right Vox party, Santiago Abascal, claiming that PSOE and Junts were “guilty of a coup d’état”, according to the Economist. Conservative former prime minister José María Aznar described the agreement as “Putting the constitution at the service of separatists and former terrorists.”
In response to the protests led by the Populist Party, Sánchez put out a statement on November 10 on X, formerly Twitter : “Be brave and to say no to the bear-hug of the far right, and to abandon the reactionary path that they’re currently following towards the abyss. We will govern for all Spaniards – for four more years of social progress and coexistence.”
The protestors near PSOE headquarters condemned the agreement and, according to the Spanish news outlet El Pais shouted: “No, it can’t be, bro! We have a PM who has put the government in the hands of those who want to break up Spain! Those sons of bitches!”
Demonstrators at the PSOE base, according to El Pais, threw bottles at riot police. An officer from Spain’s Information Services of the National Police, said that the rioters were members of the far-right football groups Frente Atlético and Ultra Sur: “This is typical behavior by the ultras of the Frente Atlético and Ultra Sur. They congregate in their bar-headquarters, they drink their asses off and then, when things are hot enough, they receive an alert and go out to mess it up and unleash all their violence, because that is their only objective, the fun of releasing their aggression,”
The officer suggested the violence was not politically motivated, but was used at the demonstrations as a publicity stunt: “In reality they are few, and by themselves they have no strength to accomplish anything. That is why they use these events to regain some visibility.”
According to Politico, the Commissioner for the European Union, Didier Reynders, has expressed “serious concerns” about the proposed bill and has requested more information from Spain’s government regarding the “personal, material and temporal scope of this envisaged law.”
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