When Carme Chacón, defense minister in the government of Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and aspirant to lead the Socialist Party (PSOE), on Wednesday of this week called the current head of the group, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, to say she was abandoning her seat in Congress and was going off to teach for a year in Miami, Rubalcaba wished her well (according to Chacón’s version of the conversation) and kept mum on the issue when she announced her decision the following day.
The official line from the PSOE was that the party “respected” her decision but in the upper echelons of the group the reaction was one of perplexity and displeasure. “She says she wants to renew the party and she disappears in what is a very important year,” one PSOE source said.
The Socialists suffered heavy defeats in municipal and general elections in 2011 to the now ruling Popular Party and are looking to regroup before elections for the European Parliament in May of next year and thereafter hold primaries for the leadership of the party.
She says she’s going to follow Spanish politics very closely. Very closely from Miami?"
It is also due to hold a political conference in the fall and has been trying to bring Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to account over his role in the so-called Bárcenas case, in which the PP’s former treasurer for 20 years has unveiled a parallel accounting system that detailed illegal donations to the party and cash payments to PP leaders, including Rajoy himself.
“This year is key: the Bárcenas case, our political conference, the sovereignty challenge in Catalonia and the European elections, which are very important because they will be the first on a national level since the fiasco of 2011,” one PSOE source said. “And in this context, What does Chacón say? ‘I'm going and I’ll be back to enjoy the fruits of your labor.’ Some sort of commitment that is.”
Another high-ranking Socialist also spoke disparagingly about Chacón’s project to renew the party. “The project we need is for many people to lend as many hands as possible, to give their all. That is what the PSOE needs.”
Chacón lost out to Rubalcaba in a vote on the party leadership in 2012 by only 22 votes and in her announcement on Thursday made it very clear that she would come back to the political fray after her sabbatical. “It is clear she doesn’t want the door to be shut regardless of whether it works out for her later,” one deputy said.
“If the calendar is maintained, that gives her time to go to Miami for a year and come back,” a source close to the Socialist leadership said. “She says she’s going to follow Spanish politics very closely. Very closely from Miami? With a time difference of eight hours [sic] and everything that is going down here,” the source continued.