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POLITICS

Socialist Party allows Andalusian branch to stage express primary

Party leader Rubalcaba will not hold up selection process on the condition that regional chief stays out of national process

The Socialist Party's top leaders on Monday gave the green light to express primaries in Andalusia, despite the rushed manner in which they were announced. "The federal executive has always backed [regional premier José Antonio] Griñán and it always will. He has explained the political and institutional reasons for his decision," said Óscar López, the Socialist Party (PSOE) organization secretary and number-three man to party leader Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba.

Griñán's decision not to run for regional premier again and to find a substitute candidate has been viewed by some as a veiled suggestion to Rubalcaba to do the same at the national level.

In an interview with EL PAÍS published on Sunday, Griñán, 67, said he would not run again because it is necessary to give way to "new blood." The Socialist Party has been governing Andalusia for the last 37 years.

"If I did Rubalcaba a bad turn, then we are in a situation of tremendous weakness," said Griñán in connection with these views. Rubalcaba, 61, another veteran party leader, ran against Mariano Rajoy in the last general elections but sustained a heavy defeat.

The understanding between Rubalcaba and Griñán is believed to include a deal by which the Andalusian chief, who is also the PSOE’s federal president, will not interfere in the timetable being drawn up for a national debate within the party on key policies such as regional devolution, and an eventual primary to select the candidate for general elections due in 2015.

López failed to explain whether Griñán's decision is a way to ensure a new party leader is in place in case he should have to call early elections in Andalusia. The notion is not entirely improbable, as the Andalusian Socialists have been hard hit by a scandal involving the misappropriation of public subsidies for struggling businesses.

The Andalusian primaries will be formally announced on Tuesday and will be held on July 29, even though the next regional elections are not scheduled before 2016.

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