Spain’s Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez was sworn in Friday as prime minister for another term with the right vowing to keep up its protests against his decision to grant Catalan separatists an amnesty.
Sanchez, in office since 2018, took the oath before King Felipe VI at the Zarzuela Palace near Madrid, a day after he won the endorsement of a majority of lawmakers in Spain’s fragmented parliament to form a new minority coalition government with hard-left party Sumar.
His Socialists finished second in an inconclusive July general election but he reached deals with several smaller parties to back him in the parliamentary vote for another term, including Catalan and Basque separatists.
To win the support of two Catalan separatist parties, he agreed to grant an unpopular amnesty to hundreds of people facing legal action for their role in Catalonia’s separatist movement over the past decade.
That includes the wealthy northeastern region’s failed secession bid in 2017 that involved a violence-marred referendum that was banned by the courts and followed by a short-lived declaration of independence.
Critics say the amnesty is a self-serving measure to allow Sanchez to remain in power and accuse him of trampling on the rule of law.
The amnesty bill — which still must be approved by parliament — has sparked protests across Spain in recent weeks, with another scheduled for Saturday at noon (1100 GMT) in Madrid which top figures from the conservative Popular Party (PP) and far-right Vox have vowed to attend.
“The civic resistance is not going to give up,” PP secretary general Cuca Gamarra wrote on social network X, formerly Twitter.
Thousands have congregated each night for more than a week outside the Socialist party’s headquarters in Madrid in rallies organised by the far right against the amnesty. Some protests have turned violent.
“We will continue to support all mobilisations and all calls to oppose” this “government born from an unconstitutional pact”, said Vox leader Santiago Abascal, who has called the amnesty deal a “coup d’etat”.
In a sign of the tensions the amnesty has sparked, dozens of retired right-wing generals issued a manifesto on Friday calling on “those responsible for defending the constitutional order” to “remove the prime minister” and “call” new elections.
The PP won most seats in the July election but fell short of a majority and its leader Alberto Nunez Feijoo was unable to get support from other parties to win his investiture vote in September.
Sanchez, who has made a career out of political gambles, has defended the amnesty, arguing it was constitutional and needed to “heal the wounds” opened by Catalonia’s independence push.