Thousands rally in Madrid to urge Spanish leader Pedro Sánchez not to resign

MADRID (AP) — Thousands of supporters and party members of Spain’s Socialist party rallied outside the party’s national headquarters in Madrid on Saturday to show their support for Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and urge him not to step down.

Sánchez stunned Spain on Wednesday when he announced that he was canceling his itinerary while he considers whether or not to resign after what he described as a “smear campaign” against his wife. He said he would reveal his future plans on Monday.

Sánchez’s shocking announcement came hours after a Spanish judge opened a preliminary investigation into allegation of corruption made against Sánchez’s wife by a group aligned with right-wing interests. The Spanish leader said the allegations were “spurious” and that they formed the worst attack in what he described as an orchestrated campaign to discredit him by targeting his family. The Madrid regional prosecutor's office recommended the allegations to be thrown out.

The crowd packing the downtown street of Madrid on Saturday shouted “You are not alone!” and waved party flags. Socialist leaders and the leaders of other left-wing parties have urged Sánchez not to resign. Prime minister since 2018, Sánchez has over three years left on his term.

The right-of-center opposition Popular Party, however, said Sánchez’s behavior was a desperate attempt to draw attention away from his wife and to win support in upcoming regional and European elections.