Thousands of people demonstrated in Madrid, capital of Spain, against the government of Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.
According to the authorities, around 30,000 people followed the call of various right-wing groups, the conservative Popular Party (PP) and the far-right Vox party.
Attendees, many of them waving red and yellow Spanish flags, called for Sánchez’s resignation. Many showed portraits of the head of government with the addition “traitor”.
Organizers spoke of 700,000 participants. The reason for the protest is the decision of the socialist government to abolish the crime of rioting.
On that basis, nine Catalan separatist leaders were condemned for their role in the failed independence referendum in 2017.
“Worst government in history”
In December, after heated debates, the Spanish parliament abolished the offense of rebellion as part of a reform of the penal code. It was replaced by the crime of disturbing public order. This provides for less severe penalties.
Conservatives accuse Sánchez of abolishing the crime of incitement to secure support for the Catalan pro-independence party ERC in parliament.
Spain’s right-wingers are also upset by a new law against sexual violence. This toughened the penalties for rape, but the penalties for other sexual crimes were relaxed.
At the start of the rally, Vox chief Santiago Abascal spoke of the “worst government in history” that divided Spaniards and freed “rapists and coup plotters”.
PP leader Alberto Nunez Feijoo did not attend the rally, but encouraged PP supporters to do so.
Conservatives need Vox support in upcoming general election
Most polls point to the PP as the winner of general elections scheduled for later this year, but also show that the conservatives will need Vox’s support to govern. Local and regional elections are also scheduled for May.
As the Sanchez government lacks a parliamentary majority, it was forced from the start to negotiate with pro-independence Basque and Catalan pro-independence groups to get its laws passed, drawing the ire of the right.