Catalan protesters flood Madrid
Spain’s snap general election on April 28 is being dominated with the divisions created by Catalonia’s 2017 bid for independence.
Twelve Catalan politicians and activists on trial at Madrid’s Supreme Court currently face rebellion, misuse of funds and sedition charges for holding the controversial independence referendum.
Madrid declared the October 2017 vote illegal and imposed direct rule.
The trials are about to enter their fifth week and sentencing is not expected until after the election.
For the first time, Spain has five significant parties to watch at a general election.
Three right-leaning parties, the conservative Popular Party (PP), centre-right Ciudadanos and newly formed far-right Vox are all calling for the central government to take a tougher position on the Catalan separatists.
Ever-unreliable polls suggest Catalan parties may prove decisive if Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez is to form a coalition after the vote.
The Socialists are expected to win the most seats but fall short of a majority in the chamber.
The Catalan crisis has triggered an outburst of nationalism, spawning the populist Vox.
Sanchez’s efforts to repair divisions over Catalonia have led to him being labelled as a traitor because he needed the separatist votes to form his administration last year.
Tens of thousands of Catalan separatists protested in Madrid in protest at the trial of 12 leaders behind the divisive 2017 independence referendum.
Placards read “Self-determination is not a crime”.
The separatist leaders face up to 25 years in prison.
The event in the capital was organised by more than 60 NGOs from across Spain.
The protesters marched from Atocha train station to the Plaza de Cibeles.
Sanchez came to power after winning a confidence motion in 2018 with the support of Catalan separatist parties but was unable to secure their backing for his budget, leading him to call an early election.
Spain’s 1978 constitution refers to “the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation”.
Spain remains divided over the 2017 Catalan referendum. Picture credit: Wikimedia