Tens of thousands of Spanish nationalists took to the streets in Madrid on Saturday ahead of a proposed meeting between Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and Catalan separatists.
The protest attracted an estimated 45,000 people and was led by the leaders of the centrist Ciudadanos, the conservative Popular Party, and far-right Vox. Protesters are demanding a snap election and accuse Sánchez of betraying the nation by entering into discussions with Catalan secessionists.
The protests lasted two days and preceded the trial of 12 Catalan separatist leaders who were charged with rebellion and misuse of public funds, after the independence referendum last year which was deemed illegal by Madrid.
Sánchez is facing opposition on both sides as he attempts to pass through his government's proposed budget next Wednesday.
Sanchez’s minority government, came to power last June ousting a conservative government and relying on the support of the left-wing party Podemos, Catalan nationalists and other small parties. He holds just over a quarter of the seats in parliament and was favoured by Catalan supporters as he was more open to discussions.
Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo however, said that the discussions between the government and separatists were likely to fail as pro-independence groups reject the proposed framework. Catalan groups insist on a referendum on independence whilst Madrid insists upon Spanish unity.
Without the support of Catalan parties, it is unlikely he will pass his budget and this could trigger a snap election. Polls indicated that the Popular Party, Ciudadanos and Vox could win a majority of seats and replace Sánchez’s government.