Pardons bring Colón three back together: PP, Vox and Cs support a demonstration for June 13

Called by a platform promoted by Rosa Díez, it forces the PP to protest despite its initial reluctance

3 min
Santiago Abascal, Pablo Casado and Albert Rivera to Colón.

MadridThe Spanish right is getting ready for a political and judicial war, taking to the streets against the cabinet conceding pardons to Catalan political prisoners, after Pedro Sanchez paved the way despite the Supreme Court's opposition. Although the PP and Ciudadanos were reluctant to take to the streets and wanted the offensive to be mainly institutional, such as the collection of signatures that PP has announced and the motion it will take to regional parliaments and city councils to force the PSOE to show its hand and thus wear it down, in the end they have finally given in. In fact, the pardons are bringing back together the three parties that converged in Plaza Colón in February 2019, portraying a right-wing front against Pedro Sánchez's government at a time of détente with pro-independence parties. It also adds to the rapprochement between Pablo Casado and Inés Arrimadas, who would be trying to rebuild bridges after having met a few days ago at a meal in Madrid to recover the relationship lost after the failed motion of censure in Murcia, as advanced by El Confidencial and ARA has confirmed.

The call for a demonstration on June 13 by the Unión 78 platform, driven by people like Rosa Díez -founder of UPyD-, Fernando Savater and María San Gil, to "defend democracy and the rights of citizenship", has forced all Spanish right-wing parties to take sides quickly. The platform, which says it is "civic" and "political", launched a statement this Friday calling on citizens to gather at 12 noon in Madrid's Plaza Colón, under the great Spanish flag raised by José María Aznar, to show their rejection to the granting of pardons "against the criteria of the Supreme Court".

Call beyond party lines

It has taken much for the president of Madrid, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, to retweet the call launched by Rosa Díez, and thus add pressure to Casado: Ayuso's retweet was almost like a party backing. Minutes later Vox leader Santiago Abascal did the same, saying his party fully supports the call. "It is important that Spaniards, beyond partisan lines, unite against this outrage to the legality, justice, democracy and the unity of Spain. See you at [Plaza] Colón," he added.

Finally, PP sources have confirmed that a member of the party leadership will join the demonstration, but have avoided confirming whether Casado himself will go and will reissue a photo with Abascal. Ciudadanos have also indicated they will give "support" to the protest, but they consider that protagonism should belong to "civil society" and recall that they have already called a demonstration for June 11 in Barcelona in front of the Delegation of the Spanish government to "ask them to reverse" the pardons. Once they saw that the call had caught on, Ciudadanos started urging people to join the protest "against the indignity of the pardon to the sentenced over the Independence bid" on Twitter. "We democrats will fight on all fronts," they point out.

Signature collection as against Catalonia's Statute of Autonomy

In addition to the mobilisation and motions in city councils and regional parliaments, the leader of the PP has also announced a massive collection of signatures against the pardon. During an act against depopulation in Soria, he has demanded that the position of the Supreme Court to reject the pardon is "respected" and has detailed the mobilisation to collect support, which brings to mind Mariano Rajoy's famous 2006 campaign against Catalonia's Statute of Autonomy. In this sense, the spokesman of the Basque National Party in the Spanish Parliament, Aitor Esteban, has asked the PP to watch out because the collection of signatures can end "very badly" considering "how we got here". It is a diagnosis shared by the Spanish government. The first vice president, Carmen Calvo, has again attributed the conflict in Catalonia to the "PP's mistakes" and has replied to party opposition to the pardons.

The call for the demonstration in Plaza Colón comes at a time when Casado is trying to recompose the Spanish center-right after trying to take over Ciutadans following the failed motion of censure in Murcia. His team is convinced that they have managed to make Vox stagnate and to place themselves above the PSOE in vote estimation, as some polls have detected, although not yet in the latest CIS barometer, in which they increase their vote share thanks to Ciudadanos' demise but are still four and a half points behind the socialists.

Although the PP's discourse, especially on the unity of Spain, is very similar to Vox's, Casado has wanted to avoid getting too cosy with the far right ever since he decided no to back Vox's motion of censure in the Spanish parliament. However, Ayuso is constantly putting him between a rock and a hard place: the Madrid president is not afraid to adopt the far right's discourse and agree with them to govern - in fact, she has even adopted parts of its programme - and with this strategy she has managed to slow the rise of Abascal in the Spanish capital.