THE HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of Spaniards who demonstrated the previous weekend were at a loss. On November 16, the president of the outgoing government, the socialist Pedro Sanchez, was reappointed by a majority of deputies, a heterogeneous coalition ranging from the extreme left to the nationalist and Basque and Catalan independence rights.
“Sanchez, you are a traitor!” » “We sell Spain for seven votes!” » The violence of the slogans, shouted four days earlier by the streets mobilized at the call of the right and the extreme right, testify to a strong tension. The president of the autonomous community of Madrid, Isabel Diaz Ayuso, a rising star of the Popular Party (right) went so far as to denounce the advent of a “dictatorship”. Vox, the far-right party, screams “coup d’état” and “illegitimate government”. Never since the democratic transition, almost half a century ago, has the inauguration of a head of government been so contested.
The anger expressed by a large section of public opinion is due to the conditions in which Pedro Sanchez negotiated his retention in power. Failing to have collected a sufficient number of seats in the elections of July 23, the socialist agreed, after months of negotiations, to grant an amnesty to the Catalan separatists pursued by the courts for having organized, in October 2017, a referendum contrary to the Constitution on the secession of the autonomous region. Coming out of his reserve, the king, Felipe VI, accused the Catalan leaders of placing themselves “on the margins of law and democracy”, and promised the restoration of “constitutional order”. Dismissed by Madrid, the independence leaders, including Catalan President Carles Puigdemont, fled to Belgium. Since then, justice has called them to account.
“Return to harmony”
Because parliamentary arithmetic forces him to recover the seven deputies of the Catalan independence party Junts to obtain a majority, Pedro Sanchez now accepts an amnesty law in favor of the hundreds of accused and convicted persons whom he had, however, sidelined during the election campaign. And what does it matter if, according to polls, three out of four Spaniards and even a majority of Catalans remain opposed to it. Deemed immoral and unconstitutional by the right and part of the judiciary, justified by Pedro Sanchez in the name of “return to harmony”, the maneuver reinforces the reputation of the socialist as a cynical opportunist.
If this upcoming pardon law inflames public opinion so much, it is also because it reveals Spanish fragilities. “The last amnesty dates back to 1977, during a change of regime,” recalls political scientist Pablo Simon. In this country of multiple identities, memories keep vivid memories of the uprisings and civil wars which from the 19th century until the 1930s led to Francoism. For a majority of citizens, the constitutional framework put in place in 1978 remains a safeguard against any political adventurism, the tragedy of which History has shown.