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A Spanish parliamentary session that was marked by harsh references to Antonio Tejero and Benito Mussolini, by the accusations of "bad" democrats launched from one side as well as the other - and not by the underlying reason: a proposed law intended to repair the judicial pursuit of those who seek independence for Catalonia. Alberto Núñez Feijóo went so far this Tuesday as to say that the debate on the amnesty bill has brought Spain's Congress of Deputies into "the saddest and most retrograde session" of the house since Spain's 1981 coup attempt, the 23-F. It was one of the first phrases that the People's Party (PP) uttered this Tuesday, as if it were setting the bar for a speech packed with ill-feeling over the proposed law, in which he also accused the Socialists (PSOE) of "political corruption". The lower house held its introductory debate on the Catalan amnesty bill in a session full of reproaches, insults and speeches making accusations of low democratic quality on both sides of the chamber.

Despite the work done by Patxi López - the Socialist spokesperson, in charge of defending a bill that bears the PSOE stamp - in preparing a debate strategy with his team based on non-confrontation with the PP, Alberto Núñez Feijóo chose to set fire to the debate, and compared the amnesty with the 23-F. He defined the proposed legislation as "a national and international shame" and denounced that the law implies an "unprecedented democratic setback" and a "humiliation for the Spanish people". Feijóo considered that it is not just "to impose collective amnesia on 48 million Spaniards", "to tear up the speech by the head of state on October 3rd" - in which Felipe VI endorsed the repressive actions against the Catalan voters in the 2017 referendum - or "to allow our democracy to be rewritten by those who want to end it".

"Dangerous precedents"

During his speech, the PP leader argued that this law "sets several dangerous precedents" because "Spanish people will no longer be equal before the law". Addressing the PSOE, he asked if there was any sign of shame on the Socialist bench from knowing that they will be voting against their commitments, their electoral programme, their political biography and our rule of law." "Didn't they say that coexistence in Catalonia was already resolved?" he asked, and pointing out that "with the amnesty, no problem is resolved in Catalonia, but the problem is spread to the whole of Spain". He warned that, if they do not receive all the information about the negotiations abroad, the PP will promote a commission of inquiry and will not close it until everyone appears and "exactly everything" is known.


Feijóo (PP): "This is the saddest and most retrograde session since that afternoon of February 23rd, 1981"

Alluding to the pro-independence parties, Feijóo stressed that "independentism is in luck" because the amnesty "is now perfectly valid" and the arguments to oppose a referendum "are invalidated by the Spanish government itself", since "the word of the Spanish government no longer has any value". He emphasized that "the independence movement has never had less popular support", but has found "a shortcut to achieve its goals: Pedro Sánchez's lack of scruples".

PSOE invokes 1977 amnesty to justify that of 2023

For this Tuesday, Patxi López's team was preparing a speech full of calm and tranquility, with non-confrontation with Feijóo as the main axis of their strategy. The PSOE spokesperson in this chamber opened up the debate, as the amnesty bill, despite the participation of most of Pedro Sánchez's parliamentary partners, in the end bears only the Socialist stamp. "Between hope and fear, for us, the amnesty forms part of hope, because the law calls us to have enthusiasm for the reencounter," he said. And he incorporated an infrequently-used part of the PSOE's argument to promote a parliamentary bill that redresses the judicial damage to independence supporters: that Spain's post-Franco amnesty law of 1977 is the demonstration that the 2023 amnesty law is constitutional.

Because, as the former Basque president reflected, it would be completely contradictory to Spain's Constitution of 1978 to amend the amnesty law of 1977, which is the 'Big Bang' of the Spanish constitution and of its whole democratic transition at the end of the Franco dictatorship. "One can't argue that the Constitution of 1977 was drawn up for the purpose of the state while the current one is a humiliation", asserted Patxi López. The rest of the PSOE's argument this Tuesday followed the same lines as in the past weeks: the pardons - given in 2021 to nine pro-independence leaders - mark the path to "coexistence", and now the amnesty is one step further.


Patxi López (PSOE): "You want to keep feeding the conflict, we want to open a new time for the reencounter"

Mussolini, hung by his feet and the guillotine

Patxi López also accused the PP of participating in a spiral of verbal violence promoted by Vox, and recalled that the far-right party's leader Santiago Abascal warned Pedro Sánchez that at some point the Spanish citizenry will want to "hang him by the feet" as was done with the dictator Benito Mussolini. In his defence, the leader of the far-right party held up an image with the head of Mariano Rajoy in a guillotine and behind him, some Socialist leaders; arguing that there are images circulating on the internet that should also be reported to the public prosecutors.


Abascal (Vox): "Here, the guillotine, here the head of [ex-]prime minister Rajoy, and here the minor Socialist leaders posing. To the prosecutor, López!"   


Junts: "A window of opportunity 300 years later"

On behalf of Junts, Josep Maria Cervera emphasized that his party's decisive role thanks to the electoral arithmetic of the 23rd July election "has opened a window of opportunity 300 years later to be able to focus on the [Catalonia-Spain] conflict from its origin and generate the necessary scenario to start a political negotiation".


ERC and the political solution to "resolve a debt" with Catalonia

On the part of the Catalan Republican Left, its spokesperson in Congress, Gabriel Rufián, argued that the amnesty is "a political solution that settles a debt with Catalonia" and criticised Alberto Núñez Feijóo for "having the nerve" to refer to that as "political corruption". He claimed that the passing of a law "by the immense majority" of the chamber "is first-class democracy" and insisted on the will to hold a referendum. "In Catalonia we are prepared to win or lose a referendum. And you?"


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