SPANISH ELECTIONS

“It’s useless to vote for Rajoy and it’s useless to vote for Iglesias”

Socialist candidate Pedro Sánchez argues that his party will play a major role after Sunday’s election despite polls showing him fall to third place

PSOE secretary general Pedro Sánchez.
PSOE secretary general Pedro Sánchez.ULY MARTIN

With five days to go before a new general election in Spain, Socialist candidate Pedro Sánchez and his campaign team made a stop in the southern Madrid town of Fuenlabrada on their way to Extremadura.

Despite the dire forecasts predicting that he will come in third behind the conservative Popular Party (PP) and Unidos Podemos, the new leftist alliance headed by Pablo Iglesias, Sánchez does not look demoralized. On the contrary, he appears determined and methodical about his expectations to do better on Sunday than the polls are predicting.

But one can almost imagine an Iglesias voodoo doll full of pins and needles sitting secretly inside his coat pocket.

The PSOE’s challenge is to provide an answer to the generational inequality, to the unfulfilled expectations

Question: If the Socialist Party (PSOE) will not support the PP, will not support Podemos and will not force a new election, can Pedro Sánchez become the next prime minister?

Answer: We are headed for a fragmented parliament. Nobody will be able to govern alone. And that invalidates Mariano Rajoy as prime minister. It is useless to vote for Rajoy. And it is useless to vote for Iglesias because he has demonstrated an inability to negotiate. That is why I feel that the PSOE guarantees change and mutual agreement.

Q. Will Pedro Sánchez become the prime minister?

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A: Yes, of course. On March 2 and 4, I was refused by Rajoy and Iglesias in Congress, but this third time round Spaniards will say yes to the PSOE. And so I will be the prime minister. More than ever, the PSOE is the antidote against the extremes.

Q. Is Pedro Sánchez incompatible with Pablo Iglesias?

A. We are separated in terms of form and in content. To me, the left represents tolerance, compromise. Not hubris and intransigence, as we have seen over the last six months. Spain does not deserve to be run by individuals who create a lot of rejection among the public. And surveys show that the two leaders who are most strongly rejected are Rajoy and Iglesias. Also, to me, the left is international in its outlook, not separatist. The left defends liberties, it does not question them. I won’t allow social democracy to be used like this. Iglesias defends it while he embraces [former communist leader] Julio Anguita. Iglesias’ new social democracy is neither new nor is it a social democracy.

Q. Why has Podemos taken the PSOE’s place in terms of left-wing voter enthusiasm?

A. There is a generational gap. The transformation of the welfare state has created inequality among our young people, whose opportunities are limited by cuts to education, science, research...The labor reform exploits our young people with ornamental scholarships and precarious contracts. The PSOE’s challenge is to provide an answer to this generational inequality, to these unfulfilled expectations.

We are headed for a fragmented parliament. Nobody will be able to govern alone. And that invalidates Mariano Rajoy as prime minister

Q. Has the PSOE lost its appeal to these disappointed youngsters?

A. Yes. We need to get it back. That’s the challenge.

Q. Are you really aware of the gravity of what polls are suggesting?

A. I grant them the credibility they deserve. Spaniards treat the PSOE better than pollsters do. You have to look at them and extract conclusions. Nobody is going to run this country on their own. There is going to be a change. And I am going to encourage mutual understanding.

Q. But don’t you have the impression that the PSOE’s real power is restricted to making a diabolical choice? Either support Rajoy and let him become prime minister, or support Iglesias and let him become prime minister.

A. No. That is what the opposite extremes want, in their shared strategy of attacking the PSOE. The next government will depend on the PSOE because it will depend on Socialist voters going to the polls on Sunday. They are the real protagonists of change.

English version by Susana Urra.

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