Spain’s Socialist leader agreed to let PP form government, claims ex-PM

“I feel deceived and let down,” says Felipe González, who was in office from 1982 to 1996

Former Spanish prime minister Felipe González.
Former Spanish prime minister Felipe González.Mauricio Castañeda (EFE)

Felipe González, who is Spain’s longest-serving prime minister, has stepped into the debate over what the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) should do to break the prolonged impasse that is keeping the country without a fully functional government.

González, 74, says he feels betrayed by PSOE Secretary General Pedro Sánchez, who allegedly told him that the party would abstain at the second round of an investiture vote in Congress.

Sánchez says the PSOE must decide whether it remains a leftist party or “subordinate to the right”

Such a move would have allowed the interim PM, Mariano Rajoy of the Popular Party (PP), to be reinstated and form a minority government following the repeat elections of June 26.

Instead, the PSOE voted “no” in both rounds of the investiture session, which was held in early September.

“Naturally I feel deceived and let down by Pedro Sánchez,” said González. “I spoke to him after the June 26 elections, and on June 29 he explained to me that he would go into the opposition and would not try to form an alternative government. […] I really feel tricked because he said they would do one thing, and then it turned out to be another.”

PSOE leader Pedro Sánchez (l) is under pressure from all sides.
PSOE leader Pedro Sánchez (l) is under pressure from all sides.Paco Campos (EFE)

The man who brought Spain into the fold of the European Union – then known as the European Economic Community – had already expressed his view in early July that the PSOE should not obstruct a PP government in the name of the greater good.

On Wednesday morning, González reiterated his position in a radio interview on SER station.

“The PSOE must abstain; I feel this way more strongly than ever today,” he said.

Resignation of the board?

González’s views are the latest expression of growing internal exasperation with a party leader who refuses to change his stance – on Monday, Sánchez said he would rather see third elections than help Rajoy into office – but who has no alternative government to offer Spain.

Instead, Sánchez now wants to put his own leadership to the test by calling primaries on October 23 and asking PSOE members to validate his position. But this move needs to be green-lighted by the federal committee first, and it is unclear whether it will do so.

If 18 members out of 35 who sit on the executive board were to walk out, Sánchez would have to go

The internal confrontation has escalated to such a point that half the members of the executive board are now considering handing in their resignations to force Sánchez out and cancel his plans for primaries and a party conference.

If 18 members out of the 35 who sit on the executive board were to walk out, Sánchez would have to go. As of Tuesday evening, 15 of them said they were willing to take this unprecedented step. “It is a tough and dramatic decision,” said one member of the board.

In the meantime, critics are also trying to influence the 290 members of the federal committee before it meets this Saturday, to convince them to shoot down Sánchez’s plans for primaries and a conference.

Sánchez says the primaries and conference are necessary to decide whether the PSOE remains a leftist party or “subordinate to the right.”

While its gets its internal affairs in order, the PSOE is unlikely to engage in further talks with other parties to try to avoid third elections in Spain. And with other political leaders stuck in their respective positions, Spaniards are becoming increasingly resigned to the fact that they will probably be asked to go to the polls again on Christmas Day.

English version by Susana Urra.

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