Thousands of Spaniards joined a rally in Madrid to demand that socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez step down.
Many in the crowd gathered in the capital’s Plaza de Colon, waving Spanish flags. They chanted slogans in favour of the nation’s security forces and for Mr Sanchez to resign.
They claim that Mr Sanchez must resign for holding talks with separatists in the north-eastern region of Catalonia.
“The time of Mr Sanchez’s government is over,” said Popular Party president Pablo Casado, who asked voters to punish Mr Sanchez’s Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party in upcoming European, local and regional elections in May.
Mr Sanchez inherited the Catalan crisis from former prime minister Mariano Rajoy, the then-leader of the Popular Party. Mr Rajoy proved incapable of stopping support for secession from swelling in Catalonia to roughly half of the region’s voters.
Mr Sanchez came to power in June promising to thaw tensions between central authorities in Madrid and the Catalan leaders in Barcelona. He has met twice with Catalan chief Quim Torra and members of both governments had several more encounters.
Mr Sanchez is trying to cobble together support to pass a national budget and will need votes from the Catalan separatists to pass it.
Even though Mr Sanchez has said he wants to see out the legislative term to 2020, a failure to win a budget vote will crank up the pressure on him to call for an early election.