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May 21, 2017

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Thousands of Spaniards have rallied in Madrid to support a no-confidence vote against conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy brought by the far-left Podemos party. Podemos organized the gathering Saturday to bolster its no-confidence vote against Rajoy’s ruling Popular Party, which has been hit by a series of corruption scandals.

The rally under the slogan “We have to throw them out” was held in the Puerta del Sol, a large square in the heart of Spain’s capital. Many protesters held signs that read “Enough!” or “Corruption!” “We are governed by a party that is not a party but is a corrupt institution that has robbed the country,” said Jose Ramon de la Valencia, a 45-year-old unemployed worker. “If we don’t take over the streets and the parliament, the Popular Party is going to do whatever they want.”

Podemos registered its intent Friday to bring the no-confidence vote to Parliament. It is presenting the party’s ponytailed leader, Pablo Iglesias, as an alternative candidate to replace Rajoy. No date has been set for the no-confidence vote but the move appears designed to fail. With only 71 members in parliament, Podemos would need help from other parties to reach the majority needed of 176. No other major party says it will back the move to topple Rajoy.

Iglesias struck a defiant tone at the rally, calling the Popular Party “a mafia-like party.” “The people are not afraid. They are telling the corrupted to ‘get lost, we want a Spain of the 21st century,” Iglesias said. “This country is better than its parliament and we are showing the way to the future.”

Rajoy has been dragged into the most damaging of the corruption cases involving the Popular Party, an alleged kickbacks-for-contracts scheme to finance party activities. Spain’s National Court has called Rajoy as a witness in the case. Like his party, Rajoy has denied any wrongdoing.

On Monday, Podemos will present a motion for a separate no-confidence vote against Madrid’s regional leader, Cristina Cifuentes, for another corruption investigation involving the Popular Party.

AP television producer Iain Sullivan contributed from Madrid.

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