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Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets across Spain on Sunday to condemn Pedro Sánchez as anger mounts over the caretaker prime minister’s plan to offer amnesty to Catalan separatists in order to stay in power.
The conservative opposition has held protests in 53 cities as Sánchez prepares to grant pardons to those involved in an illegal 2017 campaign for Catalan independence, a deal that will provide him with the parliamentary votes he needs to another mandate.
Addressing protesters gathered in central Madrid, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, leader of the opposition Popular Party, accused Sánchez of buying the premiership with the “judicial impunity” of his Catalan allies.
“We will not be silent until there are elections,” said Núñez Feijóo.
Faced with banners insulting in particular “Sánchez traitor”, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, conservative leader of the Madrid region, declared that the Prime Minister had decided “that he would not lose power, whatever the price for the ‘Spain’.
Anger in the streets reinforces concerns about serious public unrest next week, when the amnesty bill is expected to be published. Sánchez’s Socialist Party then has until November 27 to call a parliamentary vote to appoint him prime minister for four more years.
In a speech on Saturday, Sánchez accused the PP of “hugging” the far right as it sparked the amnesty controversy and “advancing toward the abyss.”
Santiago Abascal, leader of the far-right Vox party, called the amnesty deal a “coup” and said there should be “no restraint” in his response. “No calm or tolerance in the face of the coup,” he told protesters in Madrid. “Total and permanent mobilization. »
For the tenth day in a row, crowds gathered outside the socialist headquarters in Madrid, where a group of protesters throwing flares and bottles repeatedly clashed with police. They were condemned by non-violent protesters.
The central government said 80,000 people gathered in Madrid on Sunday, including 40,000 in Seville, 30,000 in Malaga and Granada and more than 20,000 in Valencia. The PP estimates a larger number, including 500,000 in Madrid.
After inconclusive legislative elections in July, the socialist deal with separatists, including the hard-line Together for Catalonia party, will allow Sánchez to achieve the 176-seat majority he needs in Spain’s Congress of Deputies .
Sánchez says the agreement will defuse long-standing tensions over Catalonia and move the conflict over the region’s status into the political realm and out of the justice system. But before the elections, Sánchez said an amnesty would be “unacceptable.”
An amnesty law will end prosecutions, prison sentences and other sanctions faced by hundreds of pro-independence leaders and supporters who supported Catalonia’s attempt to secede from Spain six years ago. Their accusations range from breaches of public order to embezzlement of public funds.
Speaking in Malaga on Saturday, Sánchez said he was asking the PP “to show common sense and moderation (and) to accept the results of the polls and the legitimacy of the government that we will soon form in Spain.” He said the PP “should have the courage to say no to the embrace of the ultra-right and abandon the reactionary path on which they are advancing towards the abyss.”
A large number of Spanish judges have condemned the amnesty proposal because it violates the principle of equality before the law. A group of police officers declared themselves “ready to shed every last drop of blood” to defend the Constitution, which they said was threatened by Sánchez’s plan.
Polls suggest that more than two-thirds of Spaniards are opposed to an amnesty.