Pedro Sanchez's socialist party offers amnesty for Catalan separatists

Protesters clash with police in Spain after Pedro Sanchez’s socialist party offered controversial amnesty for Catalan separatists who took part in illegal push for independence

  • The Spanish premier has provoked anger after backing Catalan separatists 

Protesters clashed with police in Spain last night in response to acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez offering a controversial amnesty for Catalan separatists who took part in an illegal push for independence.

Sanchez has received support of the National Basque Party (PNV) and the Canaries’ Coalition, along with that of Catalan separatist party Junts.

As a result, he looks assured of another term in office after securing the backing of the regional parties – giving him an absolute majority in the 350-member lower house in a vote due to take place in the coming days

But commentators say Sanchez’s alliance with Catalan separatists has opened up a breach in Spanish society and poses a risk with his own political family.

In exchange for providing the votes needed to form a new government, Sanchez agreed to Catalan separatist Carles Puigdemont’s demands that hundreds of separatists pursued by Spanish prosecutors for their role in a failed 2017 declaration of independence be amnestied.

The national police are preparing to attack the demonstrators who have gathered to protest against the amnesty of the Catalan independence politicians

group of protesters walk next to a lit flare during the protest against the Catalan amnesty

Any amnesty talk is controversial in Spain and is seen by critics as an assault on the rule of law after the 2017 secession attempt set off the worst political crisis in modern Spanish history.

‘We appeal to all outraged citizens, to all Spaniards who will not give up, to all those that want to raise their voices,’ said Cuca Gamarra, the deputy leader of the center-right Popular Party (PP), which has called for rallies across the country this weekend.

Sanchez’ decision is already reflected in opinion polls.

According to the latest survey by the CIS institute released Friday, support for the Socialist Party (PSOE) has already dropped 1.3 percentage points in a month, falling to 31.3 percent, while the PP gained 1.7 points to 33.9 percent.

The PP and its allies finished first in July’s legislative elections but was not able to form a workable majority in parliament.

The PSOE finished second, but after PP leader Alberto Nunez Feijoo failed to cobble together a majority, the mandate was given to Sanchez and he succeeded only at the cost of winning over Puigdemont.

In response, the PP has sought to mobilize public opinion against the amnesty law, organising rallies in all the main cities in the country.

The far-right nationalist Vox party has gone even further in its rhetoric, calling for ‘resistance’ against the state.

‘We have the duty to resist a government and a tyrant that will be sworn in thanks to enemies of Spain,’ Santiago Abascal, the party’s head, said Thursday during a demonstration in front of PSOE headquarters in Madrid.

Spain’s acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has provoked widespread anger over his pledge of amnesty for Catalan separatists

Members of the anti-riot police forces stand guard behind their shields during a protest outside the Spanish Socialist Party

Right-wing and far-right demonstrators have gathered to protest a deal struck by caretaker Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez that granted amnesty to people involved in Catalonia’s failed independence bid in 2017

The demonstrations, held every evening for a week, have started to degenerate with 24 arrests Thursday, according to police.

Opposition is rising in the ranks of the judiciary, and not just among conservative judges.

In a statement, the main magistrates’ associations, representing all political stripes, said Sanchez’ accords with Puigdemont represent a ‘rupture in the separation of powers’ and an ‘unacceptable disrespect for the role of the legal system.’

The amnesty plan is controversial even within the PSOE. Puigdemont, who fled to Belgium after the failed secession to avoid prosecution, ‘is guilty and is not a victim,” said Emiliano Garcia-Page, Socialist president of the Castilla-La Mancha region. ‘The judges just applied the law.’

Beyond the current tensions, another challenge for Sanchez will be the reliability of Puigdemont, who for years has strongly opposed Spain’s leftist governments.

‘The dance now begins,’ said the political scientist Oriol Bartomeus, who says the government’s stability will matter little to Puigdemont, whose priority is appearing more independent and intransigent in the eyes of his Catalan base than his separatist rivals.

‘It is a risk but Sanchez has shown he likes risk.’

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