Socialists struggle with internal strife over party pact talks and leadership

Valencia’s regional chief predicts new elections: “The numbers just don’t add up” Ex-Basque Country believes his group is making “a public spectacle” of itself

Regional premier Ximo Puig, on Tuesday in Valencia.
Regional premier Ximo Puig, on Tuesday in Valencia.JOSÉ JORDÁN

With the political situation in Spain still unclear as the four major parties continue to reject each others’ offers for a political coalition, deep divisions in the Socialist Party (PSOE) became more evident on Wednesday as several top members questioned whether new elections will have to be called due to the likelihood that they will be unable to muster enough support to form a new government.

“The votes just don’t add up, no matter how you look at them,” said Valencian regional premier Ximo Puig, one of the Socialists’ so-called “barons,” in an EL PAÍS interview, regarding the number of seats all the parties won in the December 20 race.

“I don’t see them adding up on either side,” Puig said, adding that he is convinced that new general elections will have to be held. Puig governs in Valencia in a coalition with the local Compromis party.

At the general elections, no party came up with enough votes for an absolute majority in the 350-member Congress.

Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez said last week that his party will vote against Mariano Rajoy, the acting prime minister from the Popular Party (PP), to stay on for a second term. But the PSOE would need the support of a broad leftist coalition to form a government.

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Anti-austerity group Podemos, which was the third political force at the December 20 polls, will not be called on to support Sánchez to form a government as long as its leader, Pablo Iglesias, insists on seeking a referendum on independence for Catalonia.

For his part, Albert Rivera, leader of the centrist business-friendly Ciudadanos, which placed fourth in the race, has reiterated that his party would abstain from voting if any of the candidates from the PP or Socialists garner enough support from the other groups to form a government.

But that decision is insignificant without the participation of a third political party in a coalition. Ciudadanos’ 40 deputies are insufficient for both the PP and the Socialists to win the 176-seat majority they both need.

The PP won 123 seats while the Socialists, which placed second in the race, took 90.

Susana Díaz, the Socialist regional premier in Andalusia, warned this week that it was the party’s federal committee, and not Sánchez, which will vote on forming political coalitions.

The Socialists have also already rejected joining a PP government.

Meanwhile, the Socialists are also still divided when to hold their next party convention to select their new leader. According to the party’s normal calendar, the convention should be held in late February or early March. But Sánchez told the Socialist federal committee that he wants to wait later in the spring.

The open debate over the Socialists’ internal affairs has put for now on the sidelines urgent discussions about creating a new government

Some Socialist leaders have publicly said that they see this as a ploy by Sánchez to guarantee he will stay on as leader, if and when another general election is held.

Many believe that this open debate over the Socialists’ internal affairs has relegated urgent discussions about creating a new government on the sidelines.

“I find this public spectacle regrettable for the Socialist party,” said Patxi López, former Basque Country regional premier and head of the Socialists’ Political Action group.

“Delaying the convention by two months does not mean a catastrophe for the Socialists, but it will offer more guarantees,” López told state radio RNE.

“The convention should be held in the spring, and be organized by everyone – not one against another,” said Puig. “And I am not saying who should be secretary general; that’s for the members to decide.”

After Puig’s statements appeared in Wednesday’s edition of EL PAÍS, Ciudadanos leader Rivera wrote on his Twitter account: “It appears that the Socialists are more concerned about their internal bickering rather than working for Spain: they want elections every three months.”

English version by Martin Delfín.

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