Spain’s struggling Socialists could have a new leader by summer

No nominee has come forward to lead a party accused by some of being in secret coalition with ruling PP

Anabel Díez

The Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE), which has been functioning under a caretaker committee since October, looks set to have a new leader before the summer, ending an unprecedented situation for the oldest political party in Spain.

Javier Fernández heads the PSOE caretaker team.
Javier Fernández heads the PSOE caretaker team.Juan Carlos Hidalgo (EFE)

Javier Fernández, head of the management team that took over on October 1, when Pedro Sánchez resigned as secretary general, will address a federal committee next month to suggest a national convention in May or June aimed at officially naming a leader.

Fernández said he feels that the convention cannot be held earlier because it’s not just about finding a new secretary general, but also about debating the Socialists’ entire political project at a time when many voters have deserted the PSOE for new protest parties.

Socialist support for the government’s budget plan is “a medieval impossibility”

But there is a growing grassroots movement within the PSOE pushing for the convention to be held much earlier than that.

Former secretary general Pedro Sánchez had made a similar demand in September, hoping to secure a renewed mandate for his own strategy against Mariano Rajoy, who was then leading a caretaker government.

Despite calls for him to help break the political impasse in Spain, Sánchez was refusing to deliver the government to his rival Rajoy by abstaining at a congressional investiture vote.

The abstention camp ultimately prevailed, but the dilemma created a rift within the PSOE that has yet to heal.

A likely nominee

Pedro Sánchez resigned as secretary general of the Spanish Socialists after losing a critical vote on October 1.
Pedro Sánchez resigned as secretary general of the Spanish Socialists after losing a critical vote on October 1.ALEX CRUZ (EFE)

So far, no names have been suggested as possible candidates to succeed Sánchez as the new secretary general of the Spanish Socialists. But many observers are expecting Susana Díaz, the Andalusian premier, to step forward. In late November, Díaz stated that holding both jobs would not be incompatible.

In the meantime, the caretaker team is going to great lengths to prove that the PSOE is successfully keeping the PP government in check through active opposition.

Since Rajoy was sworn back into office, the PSOE has reached agreements with him on the spending ceiling and minimum salary hikes, but sided with Podemos on a move to repeal the Citizen Safety Law.

On Tuesday, Fernández underscored that the PSOE and the PP are not in a de facto governing coalition, dismissing those claims as “conspiracy theories.”

Asked whether the Socialists will support the executive’s budget plan, Fernández described that option as “a medieval impossibility.”

English version by Susana Urra.

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