Tens of thousands of people waving Spanish flags joined a rally today in Madrid called by right-wing and far-right parties against Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez over his negotiations with Catalan independence parties.
Under the shadow of a huge Spanish flag that flies above the central Colon Square, the demonstrators waved their own smaller red and yellow versions of the same banner and held signs reading ‘Stop Sánchez. Elections now!’.
Municipal police estimated some 45,000 people had taken part in the protest, which comes just two days before the high-profile trial of Catalan independence leaders opens in Madrid under the national and foreign spotlight.
The rally was called by centre-right Ciudadanos (Cs), the right-wing People’s Party (PP) and far-right Vox, which has only recently burst onto Spain’s political scene, as well as a handful of smaller far-right groups.
They are angered by Sánchez‘s decision to take a more conciliatory tone with pro-independence parties, whose votes are crucial to the legislative agenda of his eight-month-old minority government.
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‘The government of Sánchez’s time is up,’ PP head Pablo Casado told reporters before the start of the rally.
‘We are here to say no to separatism and yes to Spain,’ added Cs leader Albert Rivera.
Sánchez came to power in June with the support of Catalan nationalist parties, which voted with him in a no confidence motion against former Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, whose PP was embroiled in a corruption scandal.
‘The government of Spain is working for the unity of Spain,’ Sánchez told a party rally in the northern city of Santander.
Former French prime minister Manuel Valls, who was born in Barcelona and is running for mayor of Spain’s second largest city, and Peru’s Mario Vargas Llosa, a Nobel Prize-winning author who became a Spanish citizen in the 1990s and has spoken out in favour of conservative Spanish causes, were among those who attended the Madrid protest.
Polls show that between them the PP, Ciudadanos and Vox would win a majority if a general election were held today, giving them the combined parliamentary clout to drive Sánchez from office.
The three parties won a majority in a regional election in the southwestern region of Andalusia in December, ousting the Socialists from power in the region after 36 years.
They called the rally after Sánchez’s government last week accepted the presence – as asked by Catalan separatists – of an independent ‘rapporteur’ in future talks between Catalan parties.
The right wing parties accused the government of treachery over the move.
Despite the government’s concession, Catalan independence parties still refuse to back the government’s 2019 budget. If Sánchez is unable to approve his budget, he could call elections before his term is over in 2020.
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