Socialist chief wants party conference to put his leadership to the vote

Announcement by Pedro Sánchez follows poor showing the day before in key regional elections

Pedro Sánchez leaves Socialist Party HQ on Sunday night.
Pedro Sánchez leaves Socialist Party HQ on Sunday night.ULY MARTIN

Following his party’s poor performance in key regional Spanish elections on Sunday, Socialist Party (PSOE) leader Pedro Sánchez announced on Monday he wants to put his leadership to the vote at a party conference in October at which primaries would be held, a move that most regional leaders oppose.

César Luena, the PSOE’s secretary, reflected the views of many senior Socialist Party leaders on Sunday night when the full scale of the party’s defeats in the regional elections was announced.

“We’re not happy with these results, which are not positive for the PSOE. This is a negative result in both regions, and I would say that this has been a difficult campaign for the PSOE,” he told journalists.

Party leaders are confident Sánchez will change his mind  at Saturday’s  key meeting

The Socialists lost 11 seats in the two regional parliaments, taking their presence there back to the low levels of the 1980s.

Sánchez’s announcement came after a meeting on Monday morning at the PSOE’s headquarters in Madrid with senior party leaders to analyze the results of elections that saw the conservative Popular Party (PP) consolidate its position in the northwestern region of Galicia, with the Socialists losing votes to the left-leaning En Marea coalition. In the Basque Country, the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) increased its share of the vote, with the PSOE trailing fourth.

Sánchez faced criticism at Monday’s meeting from at least half of the 26-member permanent commission of the PSOE’s federal executive. He has come under growing pressure from senior regional leaders to break the country’s nine-month political deadlock, which has seen two inconclusive elections won by the PP. Sánchez has refused to abstain in Congressional investiture votes and allow PP leader and acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy form a government, despite mounting calls from Socialist regional leaders to do so.

The party’s federal committee is expected to oppose his plans to put his leadership to the vote

Instead, Sánchez has reached out to Spain’s newest political formations, the center-right reformist Ciudadanos, and the left-leaning anti-austerity Podemos. The problem is that the two parties are opposed over key issues such as the right for Catalonia to hold an independence referendum. Without the support of the two, and that of smaller, regional parties, Sánchez cannot hope to win the 176-seat majority in Congress he would need to govern.

Furthermore, his critics point to Sánchez’s preliminary deal with Ciudadanos after the inconclusive elections of December 20, 2015, which the PP won, but that fell apart after Podemos refused to join the alliance.

The deadlock led to a second national election on June 26, with similar results. Last week, campaigning in the Basque and Galician regional elections, Sánchez made a public appeal to Pablo Iglesias and Albert Rivera, the leaders of Podemos and Ciudadanos respectively, to “work together to throw out the government of Mariano Rajoy.”

On Saturday, Sánchez will meet with the party’s federal committee, which is expected to oppose his plans to hold a conference that would put his leadership to the vote, seeing this as potentially creating further divisions within an already fractured party.

Sánchez insists that the PSOE’s grassroots supports his strategy of stonewalling Rajoy and wants to see a broad coalition of what he calls “the forces of change”.

English version by Nick Lyne.


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