MADRID: Tens of thousands of people waving Spanish flags joined a rally on Sunday in Madrid called by right-wing and far-right parties against Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, who they accuse of treachery over his negotiations with Catalan separatists.
Police said around 45,000 people packed Colon Square and surrounding streets for the event, which came just two days before the high-profile trial of Catalan separatist leaders opens in Madrid over their role in Catalonia’s failed 2017 independence bid.
Organisers said over 200,000 people took part on the rally held under the slogan “For a united Spain. Elections now!”.
Under the shadow of Colon Square’s huge Spanish red and yellow flag, demonstrators bussed in from all over the country heard speakers call for the defence of Spanish unity.
Many waved Spanish and European Union flags or held up signs reading “Stop Sanchez. Elections now!”.
The rally was called by centre-right Ciudadanos, the conservative Popular 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 Sanchez’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, saying it amounts to “treason”.
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 Sanchez 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.
“The government of Sanchez’s time is up,” PP head Pablo Casado told reporters before the start of the rally.
Published in Dawn, February 11th, 2019