Mass demonstration in Madrid against Prime Minister Sánchez and government policies

by Lorraine Williamson
Madrid demonstration

Madrid’s Playa de Cibeles was the epicentre of a massive demonstration on Saturday. Thousands of Spaniards protested against the policies of the Spanish government led by socialist Pedro Sánchez.  

The main centre-right parties were present. But Santiago Abascal of the right-wing populist party Vox was the only ‘leader’ who had come to the Madrid demonstration. Alberto Núñez Feijóo  and Isabel Díaz Ayuso, on behalf of the conservative Partido Popular, and Patricia Guasp, for Ciudadanos, had previously announced that they would not attend. ‘We are dealing with the worst government in history,’ said the leader of Vox .  

The setting 

The Gran Vía was closed up to the Plaza de Cibeles, Spanish flags were in full view. The same songs were played over and over again: from Joan Manuel Serrat’s Mediterráneo to Dúo Dinámico’s famous Resistiré. Political parties and trade union Solidaridad stood around with stalls. Protesters hoped that Madrid Autonomous Community president Isabel Ayuso would show up. This was not the case, as was to be expected. However, she did share images of the demonstration on her Twitter account.  

Prime Minister Sánchez’s controversial measures 

Although Feijóo was not present, the PP was represented by its right-hand man in the party, Miguel Tellado. The PP took the opportunity to attack Sánchez’s pacts with ERC and Bildu. ‘We have seen how the president has traded budgets for benefits for pro-independence supporters. We have seen how he has amended the Penal Code to abolish the crime of sedition and favour those convicted of Catalan proces,’ Tellado claimed.  

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Ascal also took the same critical path as Tellado, avoiding polemic and limiting itself to harsh criticism of the coalition leader with a list of the most controversial measures. From the debate on reforming the offence of sedition and embezzlement to the reduction in punishment through the ‘Solo sí es si’ law. ‘The government is lying to voters – said Ascal – when there are only four months to go until the first test at the polls, the 28-M elections.  

More representatives of the right-wing bloc 

The demonstration was also attended by other representatives of the right-wing bloc. Cayetana Álvarez de Toledo, who was spokesperson for the PP under Pablo Casado, stood alongside representatives of the liberal party Ciudadanos. The party’s former leader, Inés Arrimadas, said Sánchez was “a danger to Spain”. She was present in the company of Madrid’s deputy mayor Begoña Villacís and MP Guillermo Fernández. ‘We will drop Sánchez so that Spain does not topple’ she said. ‘It’s not about left, right or centre. It’s about not remaining impassive in the face of the erosion of institutions, the deterioration of democracy and the weakening of the state,’ the organisers of the protest declared from the podium set up in front of the façade of Madrid City Hall.  

Abortion law  

The organisers initially tried to hold the demonstration on the Plaza de Colón. However, they did not get the necessary permits and had to move the demonstration to Cibeles. The controversy within the Castile and León government turned everything upside down last week when Vox vice-president Juan García-Gallardo had announced changes to the law requiring women who wish to voluntarily terminate their pregnancy to hear the foetus’ heartbeat.  

A controversy that Tellado said “only benefits the PSOE”. Because, he said, it overshadows other political frictions in the coalition government. For example, the one over the ‘Solo sí es sí’ law. There was a major governmental crisis in the Castilla y León parliament, with tensions between the Abascal and Feijóo parties. Therefore, this will almost certainly have to reach an agreement after the local, regional and general elections in the absence of absolute majorities. 

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