On February 10th, 2019, a massive demonstration took place against Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and the PSOE (Socialist Party), under the slogan “elections now!” and “United Spain”. While the government claims that 45,000 people attended the protest, the actual number far exceeds that sum according to various sources. The organizers themselves claim that nearly 200,000 people attended. This is one of the biggest actions against Sánchez since he took power in the Moncloa parliament following a successful vote of no confidence against former Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. The vote was supported by a coalition of leftists and Catalan separatists.
In brief, here are the crucial background elements that led to the massive demonstration in Plaza de Colón, Madrid.
The no-confidence vote was allegedly motivated by the corruption of the ruling Partido Popular (PP or Popular Party), including exposure of the fact that many of its members held fake university degrees. The truth, however, is that these phony credentials were not exclusive to the Popular Party, but something shared by people from most of Spain’s political parties. Corruption is particularly evident within the country’s largest parties, with just as many accusations being made against the PSOE as the PP. The regionalist and independence parties in Catalonia, Galicia and the Basque region are not far behind. One good example is the Pujol clan who governed Catalonia for decades, accumulating more than 3 billion euros which they distributed throughout 13 tax havens.
While the no-confidence vote against the PP was supported by the Spanish Constitution, the call is meant to be swiftly followed by new elections, something that still hasn’t happened. The perception among the population is very clear: a Prime Minister who had not been elected by the people, who came into power thanks to a pact with parties that want to destroy the unity of Spain, is illegitimate and must be replaced.
Since taking power, the Sánchez government has focused all its attention, efforts, speeches and political action on issues such as “gender policies”, including embarrassing cases like Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo’s efforts to eliminate the presumption of innocence for men accused of violence against women, or the repeated attacks against the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language for not modifying the language to meet feminist whims.
The government has also pursued an irresponsible policy of uncontrolled immigration , starting just weeks after Sánchez came into power when he welcomed three ships filled with 630 migrants that had been turned away by Italy’s populist government. The rampant influx of migrants led to Spain becoming a hub for human trafficking while public services in municipalities along the Andalusian coast were completely exhausted.
The government’s favorite topic, however, is their leftist revanchism around the civil war in the 1930s which was in the news for months when they unsuccessfully tried to remove Francisco Franco’s tomb from the “Valley of the Fallen”. In a related effort, the government sought to pass a “law of historical memory” aimed at constructing a singular historical narrative condemning Franco’s regime and completely remove any signs of his legacy.
This context is crucial to understanding what is happening in Spain today, particularly the massive demonstration against the Socialist Party and its demands for immediate elections.
The demonstration was called by assorted right-wing parties who folded in other elements from the movement for Spanish Unity. One of the main conveners was the PP, a party worn down by its successive errors, corruption and political swings. Another important leader was the ultra-liberal Ciudadanos party. While firmly opposing Catalan independence, the party’s agenda is full of numerous liberal policies that are very similar to those of the ruling socialist party, with the exception that they demand even closer ties to the European Union.
On the other hand, nationalist parties such as Vox were also present. Vox caught attention in the international media for achieving historic election results in historically left-leaning Andalusia despite their “far-right” outlook. Other patriotic movements attacked by the government and the media, such as Falange, España 2000 and Hogar Social Madrid, also came to support the unity of Spain and the resignation of Pedro Sánchez.
These parties demand the president’s immediate resignation and accuse him of being a traitor to Spain. Their accusations began after it was discovered that the Socialist Party had secretly negotiated with independence movements through a “rapporteur” (mediator), a figure the United Nations uses to determine if a country has committed human rights abuses. It was revealed that Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo and the PSOE had broken their promise that they would maintain transparency while in dialogue with parties that want to secede from Spain.
Two days after the news broke, the Plaza de Colón was filled people unwilling to tolerate negotiations with parties that intend to violate their country’s territorial unity. While the Popular Party and Ciudadanos participated in the march, they also defend and support the 1978 Constitution, which, despite ostensibly prohibiting the breakdown of the territorial unity of Spain, also laid the foundations for dynamiting Spanish unity through decentralization and submission to private interests.
Seeing the resistance forming on a national scale, the Socialist Party rushed a last-minute statement to try to whitewash the situation and defend themselves, saying that the separatists did not accept the government’s proposals and that they would never accept a referendum on independence. Nonetheless, criticisms even began within the Party, where many scapegoated Carmen Calvo and began to ask for her resignation.
The general position of the left-wing (both the Socialist Party and Unidos Podemos) was to give dilatory statements or keep silent regarding the government’s actions. They mostly just used Twitter to declare anyone defending the unity of Spain to be a “fascist”… hardly a surprise if we consider the endophobic anti-Spanish statements they regularly make. These left-militants considered the protest a sign of the “failure of fascism”, trying to downplay the numbers despite the video and photo evidence. It should be noted that the separatist parties in Spain are mostly on the liberal right and are propped up by important international economic interests who have financial motivations for seeking territorial rupture… their support also comes from different left movements from other parts of the world that want to weaken the Spanish State.
The weakness of Sánchez’ government is now evident. A government that has maintained its rule by enacting division, propping up certain economic regions while neglecting others, such as we saw with the Canary Islands, is doomed to fail. This is a government that will not fight for the unity of Spain, engaging in dialogue with those who wish to destroy it, nor is it a government that defends national sovereignty, allowing abuses by Germany, Switzerland and Brussels as well as playing soft with the United Kingdom’s claim to Gibraltar in during Brexit negotiations. The Spanish government must hold elections, or face a “no confidence” vote called not in parliament, but in the streets.