New Socialist leader out to attract Spain’s angry and disaffected voters

Pedro Sánchez reaches out to those who want to “change things without populism”

Pedro Sánchez addresses Socialist Party members to promise them change.
Pedro Sánchez addresses Socialist Party members to promise them change.LUIS SEVILLANO

Pedro Sánchez was ratified as the new secretary general of the Socialist Party (PSOE) on Sunday, and said he is out to attract voters who are angry at politicians and political parties.

The 42-year-old Sánchez, who was virtually unknown to the public until just a few weeks ago, was voted party leader in mid-July in primaries.

Since then, Sánchez has set himself up as the driver of change, and promised to bring back disaffected voters to a party that performed dismally at the general elections of November 2011, and has been unable to recover since.

In the meantime, a new rival on the left has emerged in the form of Podemos, a grassroots party that made a big splash at the European elections of May 25, when it became the fourth-most-voted force in Spain despite only having been created three months before.

Sánchez will reach out to the voters who walked away and made other choices

With its rhetoric about the Socialists and the Popular Party (PP) one and the same, Podemos has struck a chord with Spaniards who are weary of the economic and political corruption gripping the country.

The PSOE has portrayed Podemos as populist and radical, and is trying to convey its own message of change that will convince voters to remain loyal.

At the close of the party’s extraordinary weekend congress on Sunday, Sánchez said he would reach out to “the indignados [the grassroots movement that camped out in Puerta del Sol in central Madrid in 2011 to protest the crisis], to the voters who walked away and made other choices, and to those who voted for the PP and are now feeling disappointed because they feel betrayed.”

He also underscored that he is looking to attract people “who want to change things without populism or demagoguery.”

Sánchez has set himself up as the driver of change

There to make a show of support for Sánchez were his predecessors Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, Joaquín Almunia, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and Felipe González.

The display of unity, a word that Sánchez has been using liberally in recent weeks, does not extend to the entire party, however.

Eduardo Madina, who lost out to Sánchez at the primaries and refused to join his executive committee, told the press on Sunday that “there has been no integration.” After stating that he will help the party to the best of his ability, he let it be known that his attempts at reaching Sánchez had been unsuccessful to date.

Sánchez is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Monday afternoon. Both are expected to agree on one thing only: their rejection of Catalan nationalists’ pro-independence bid.

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