The day after Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez was sworn in for his second term, about 170,000 people marched through Madrid to protest a controversial Catalan amnesty law. The law allowed Sanchez to form a government for a second term by offering amnesty to those involved in a failed bid for regional independence six years ago.
The protest, the largest yet against the deal, saw opposition groups take to the streets in cities across Spain. Protesters waved Spanish flags and held signs reading “Sanchez traitor” and “Don’t sell Spain.” The law has been criticized by judicial associations, opposition parties, and business leaders for threatening the rule of law and the separation of powers.
The opposition People’s Party (PP) won the largest share of the vote in the inconclusive election, but failed to secure an absolute majority to form a government. The rally in Madrid was joined by PP leader Alberto Nunez Feijoo and Vox party leader Santiago Abascal.
About 400 people involved in the 2017 independence bid, including separatists and police involved in clashes, will benefit from the law, including former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont, who currently lives in exile in Belgium. The amnesty is the largest in Spain since the 1977 blanket amnesty for crimes committed during the Francisco Franco dictatorship.
Sanchez won a parliamentary vote to form a new government and defended the law as a means to defuse tensions in Catalonia. However, the protests have continued, with some turning violent, and a survey in mid-September showed that approximately 70 percent of respondents were against the idea of an amnesty.