Amnesty will be 'display of strength and validity' of constitution, Sánchez says in bid for PM

Congress vote to reelect Socialist leader will take place on Thursday after two-day debate 

Pedro Sánchez speaks during his investiture debate
Pedro Sánchez speaks during his investiture debate / Javier Barbancho
Catalan News

Catalan News | @catalannews | Barcelona/Madrid

November 15, 2023 10:25 AM

November 15, 2023 07:41 PM

Almost four months on from the inconclusive Spanish general election of July 23, acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez addressed Congress today in a bid to be reelected. 

Sánchez began the investidure debate with a speech at 12 pm, which lasted an hour and a half. He defended the deals reached with other political parties in order to garner enough support to form a government, including a controversial amnesty law for individuals involved in Catalonia's independence push over the past decade

The two-day debate will conclude with a vote on Thursday, in which the Socialist leader is expected to win an absolute majority, gaining the support of 179 MPs out of the 350-member chamber. Sánchez made a series of pacts with various political groups, including Catalan pro-independence parties Esquerra Republicana (ERC) and Junts.

Socialist PM candidate Pedro Sánchez before speaking to Congress for his prime ministerial bid on November 15, 2023
Socialist PM candidate Pedro Sánchez before speaking to Congress for his prime ministerial bid on November 15, 2023 / Javier Barbancho

According to sources in his team, Sánchez will outline a full four-year program for government, including proposals on social policy, the economy, the environment and foreign policy. 

Protests are expected outside Congress on Monday as the amnesty law in particular has caused anger among right-wing and far-right parties and their supporters

Catalan independence crisis

The independence push in Catalonia over the past decade has been one of the defining points of Sánchez's last term as prime minister, and it will likely mark the upcoming one as well, if he is reelected. This is especially true after reaching a deal with Catalan pro-independence parties Esquerra Republicana and Junts per Catalunya for an amnesty law in exchange for their vote in the investiture.

Sánchez has favored dialogue to try to palliate the independence push.

During today's speech, he asked: "What do the majority of citizens want, the Catalonia of 2017? Or the Catalonia of 2023?" 

Sánchez said that the peaceful coexistence that currently exists in Catalonia is reflected in the way people voted in the past election.

"Fifty percent of Catalans voted for parties that formed the progressive coalition government. Twenty percent favored the backward right," the acting PM said. The idea, he added, is to continue with the policy of dialogue: "We must be brave to build." 

Sánchez defended the proposed amnesty law for individuals involved in Catalonia's independence push, saying it's "a measure that a large part of Catalan society asks for, and one that may not be shared by many Spanish citizens, so I ask them to respect these opinions and decisions made in necessary circumstances."


He added that the proposed amnesty would consolidate the advances made in the past four years by providing another term for a progressive government, while also sewing social accord in Catalonia. 

For Sánchez, the amnesty law can act as a tool to show Catalans that Spain is their country too.

"The amnesty law we are proposing is perfectly legal. It's a measure that has been used in other countries, such as Italy, France, the UK. I ask the People's Party for a minimum responsibility, not to continue with the agenda set out by Vox," he said. "The amnesty will not be an attack on the constitution of 1978, it will be a display of its strength and its validity."

Sánchez made a plea for more social cohesion across the country. Referring to the boycott of Catalan products seen in some parts in Spain, he asked for people to drop their "hate."

"I don't ask for support, I ask for sanity and coherence, responsibility of state," he said.

"Nothing we are seeing here is that unusual. The People's Party pardoned members of Terra Lliure for terrorism. What a scandal, Mr Feijóo," Sánchez added, directing his comments at the People's Party leader Alberto Núñez Feijóo.

Conflict and social justice

The Socialist leader greeted lawmakers in part in Catalan, saying: "Bon dia."

The first messages from the acting Prime Minister were about the protests seen across Spain against the deals made with pro-independence parties, in particular the expected amnesty law for Catalan pro-independence figures. Sánchez mentioned that protesting was their right, protected by the constitution, as is voting, which has led to the expected naming of Sánchez as the leader of the Spanish government for the next term.


Sánchez made references to "major changes in society that humanity has not seen before." In part, these changes are positive, Sánchez said, mentioning the growth of feminist movements as one. But there are also negative aspects posing existential challenges, he added, such as climate change "that affects the whole planet," forcing us to change our habits of consumption and our economies. 

The Socialist leader called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, as well as the release of hostages from Hamas, and said that the violence in response from Israeli forces is not warranted. Turning to another global conflict, Sánchez also said that "Spain and Europe must help Ukraine until the last Russian soldier leaves." 

After making references to the growth of Trump supporters in the United States, the "reactionary" tone of Javier Milei in Argentina, and threats to democracy all over the world, Sánchez said: "Either our democracy will provide security, or insecurity will end democracy. Either we face these transformations with social justice, or our bases for prosperity will diminish." 

Sánchez placed his political opponents on the opposite end of a dichotomy of social rights: "They reject change, [...] and only propose a return to the past. They ignore experts, they question scientific proof, and they have shown themselves incapable of managing the public," only to "instigate hate and social anger."


"The only effective barrier against regional and local governments ruled by right and far-right parties has been the progressive coalition government in Spain," Sánchez said.

The Socialist candidate spoke of anti-feminist remarks from unnamed members of Vox "from the past few months," including the allegation that "feminism is a cancer." He pointed out that this is the same political group the conservative People's Party has often partnered with in local governments across Spain.

Sánchez then announced a new law of equal representation that will help "break the glass ceiling" in gender inequality. He also said the next term will aim to create a new "social pact" for the LGBTQI community and amend Article 49 of the constitution to recognize the rights of people with disabilities.

Economy and welfare state

Pointing out his achievements over the last term, Sánchez said he has provided stability in the labor market to thousands of workers across the country thanks to a labor reform that reduced the number of short-term contracts companies can give.

One of the main proposals of the next legislature will be to reduce the working week to 37.5 hours, providing a better work-life balance for all. 

"Seventy-five percent of our citizens think we must reinforce the welfare state," the PM candidate said, pointing to the need to increase taxes on the highest earners in the country. Previously, Sánchez said that right-wing politicians want to lower taxes for the rich.

Sánchez is proposing "four more years of stability, coexistence, progress, and a rejection of the reactionary politicians that only stand for involution and confrontation." 

Acknowledging the increase in cost of living, Sánchez announced a reduction of VAT on basic food items until next June, and a proposal to make public transport free for minors and the unemployed beginning January 1.


In the next legislature, the Socialist leader wants to strengthen the educational system by providing better conditions for teachers, free lunches in school cafeterias, boosting research at universities and extending the cultural voucher for young people.

Aiming to tackle economic inequality, Sánchez said he wants to continue with the program of vital basic income to help the most vulnerable households meet their basic needs. 

Sánchez said that young people are facing a particularly difficult situation in the housing realm, including the rising cost of rent and mortgage rates, which makes saving money difficult. To tackle this situation, he wants to raise the rent bonus for young people and continue with the policy that covers 20% of mortgage deposits for vulnerable households.  

Climate crisis

The "green transition" and the environmental crisis will also be an important aspect of the next legislature, Sánchez said, adding that by the end of this decade, "half of all energy consumed in Spain will come from renewable sources." To achieve this, he wants to reestablish the national energy committee that was eliminated by the People’s Party when they were in government. This will be “key” in regulating the consumption of energy in the country.

Spain's Congress façade with two statues representing lions on each side of the main door
Exterior of the Spanish Congress with two lion statues on each side of the main door / Marta Vidal

To face the ongoing drought seen across Spain, a problem that has been present in Catalonia for years, the Socialist leader wants to extend and modernize infrastructures, provide more resources for those in charge of water distribution and shut down illegal wells. He promised the creation of new industries and jobs to tackle the climate crisis. "For every euro invested," in this, Sánchez said, "ten euros will be saved in damages in the coming decades."

Amnesty, new work schedule, and feminism

A few minutes after 6:15 pm, left-wing coalition Sumar leader Yolanda Díaz started her speech. Unless there is any last-minute change, she will continue in a coalition government after the Socialists and Sumar signed a new coalition deal in October.

"We have similar beliefs. We meet each other again, once again in a historic moment," Díaz said at the start of her speech, which was mainly addressed to the conservative People's Party and far-right Vox.

The "historic moment coincides with the response Spain will give from tomorrow. It is called democracy," she added.


Minutes later, she mentioned that the "amnesty will make democracy win" and criticized the speeches by PP and Vox on the Constitution and the dictatorships, one of the main stands of Vox. In fact, during her speech, she said that in a "dictatorship, the opposition would not be here, they would be in prison," addressing far-right Vox, who had left the chamber and went to protest outside the Congress.

One of the biggest deals reached between the Socialists and Sumar is reducing the work schedule to 37.5 hours per week, instead of the current 40 hours while keeping salaries as they are.

"Mr. Sánchez, I know it was hard for you to accept something this important for Sumar. This is the mandate in favor of life. Reducing the working schedule, we want more time for living, more time to enjoy, more time to take care of ourselves," she said, addressing the Socialist PM candidate.

"Our option is not for a worker to be working from dawn to dawn making sure they can try to give a life to their children. Our way is reforming the work statute," she added.

And, continuing her mentions to the right-wing parties, "Feminism is not just a ministry," she said before adding. "It is not a movement. It is much more than all that."

Feminism is "the expression of the revolution we live in. Welcome to 2023, members of the People's Party." However, it is important to reduce inequality, she said, addressing the Socialists.

Left-wing coalition Sumar leader Yolanda Díaz before speaking in Congress on November 15, 2023
Left-wing coalition Sumar leader Yolanda Díaz before speaking in Congress on November 15, 2023 / Javier Barbancho

"The best way to put an end to child poverty is universal income, such as free schools for those under three years old."

Just before finishing her speech, Díaz addressed the chamber in Galician to talk about the "importance of culture, as it is the living proof of Spain's multiculturalism. Culture helps us be who we are, it builds our dreams," she said, speaking in her native language after Catalan pro-independence Junts party reached a deal with the Socialists in August to make Spain's regional languages official in the chamber in exchange for backing a Socialist congress speaker.

Regarding international affairs, Yolanda Díaz said, "we should not doubt about Palestine, we share your thoughts, but we can do more," after Pedro Sánchez said in the morning that the government would work to recognize the Palestinian state.

"We can defend sanctions on Israel," she added.

Sánchez “excited” to continue coalition 

Sánchez acknowledged the differences between the parties, as Díaz had before, but celebrated that the two groups were able to work well together in the first ever coalition in the Spanish government, and that he was “excited” for the next four years that they can continue this partnership.  

The Socialist leader spoke about various challenges overcome and the lessons learned from major events such as the Covid pandemic and said that on balance the political partnership was a positive one.  

He cited the Next Generation Funds from the EU as an example of the positive work achieved, as the Spanish government worked for a completely different response to the Covid crisis than what Europe provided to the economic crisis spurred on by the 2008 financial crash.

Spain's acting PM Pedro Sánchez with Socialist Nadia Calviño and left-wing coalition Sumar Yolanda Díaz in Congress on November 15, 2023
Spain's acting PM Pedro Sánchez with Socialist Nadia Calviño and left-wing coalition Sumar Yolanda Díaz in Congress on November 15, 2023 / Javier Barbancho

Sánchez celebrated that inflation is low, the economy is growing, and that unemployment is low. The “reformist agenda” of the coalition government has brought dignity to workers and more dignified salaries, according to the prime ministerial candidate, which has come thanks to efforts made between the two parties in the previous legislature.  

The candidate also spoke of the importance of continuing their work in ecological transformation, social rights, and reindustrialization. Sánchez said that he wants people to see that the digital and ecological transitions can equate to opportunities.  

He shares Díaz’s worries about inequality and child poverty, as well as the Sumar leader’s stance that the targeted basic income program for vulnerable families is an important step towards tackling these issues.