Spanish Socialists and Podemos begin battle for the left-wing vote

New campaign race sees emerging party depicted as “communists” and the Socialists ignored

Pedro Sánchez (left) and Pablo Iglesias will fight for leftist voters in this campaign race.
Pedro Sánchez (left) and Pablo Iglesias will fight for leftist voters in this campaign race.EL PAÍS

The new campaign race in Spain will be marked by ideology.

With the country headed for a fresh election on June 26 following politicians’ inability to forge governing alliances, the Socialist Party (PSOE) and Podemos have already begun the battle for the left-wing vote.

After failing to agree on a power-sharing deal following the inconclusive election of December 20, Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez and Podemos chief Pablo Iglesias now view each other as rivals to be either attacked or ignored.

Sánchez’s strategy now will be to depict the emerging party as a reflection of “the old Communist left” that was historically unable to produce either progress or welfare.

Meanwhile, the anti-austerity leader will completely bypass Sánchez and focus on acting prime minister Mariano Rajoy, of the Popular Party (PP), as his true rival.

The first meeting of the PSOE election committee at party headquarters in Madrid set out the guidelines for the new campaign. The battle for the left-wing vote will pit the Socialists against Podemos, which is about to clinch an alliance with the United Left.

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Meanwhile, Iglesias on Wednesday seemed to assume that his party will beat the PSOE in June – and even offered Sánchez the deputy position in a hypothetical Podemos-led administration.

“The PSOE would be legitimized to demand the vice-presidency,” said Iglesias. “To us, the PSOE has to be an ally, we want to govern with them.”

Opinion surveys suggest that the new election could hurt both the Socialists and Podemos, who earned 90 and 69 seats in December, respectively. The incumbent PP, which obtained 123 seats, will likely perform even better, while the upstart reform party Ciudadanos stands to improve its 40-seat representation.

Aware that only 300,000 votes separated them from Podemos in December, the Socialists will focus on a defense of social democracy and an attack on “the communists.”

“Podemos wants to turn into the old left, the archaic Communist left obsessed with overtaking the PSOE, even if it is at the expense of letting the right keep ruling Spain,” said PSOE election committee spokesman Antonio Hernando.

Hernando made a public note of Podemos’ early days, when it portrayed itself as neither left-wing nor right-wing but as the scourge of the entire political establishment, then underscored the fact that the emerging party is now negotiating to run in tandem with the United Left, a group that includes the Spanish Communist Party.

Meanwhile, Iglesias is aiming high.

“For us, beating the PP and winning the elections would be a success. Not for us, but for the country. That is why it’s important to try to agree among ourselves,” he said.

English version by Susana Urra.

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