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Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez considers resigning due to ‘the unprecedented attacks’ against his wife

The leader of the Socialist Party announced he is rethinking his position after a judge opened a case against Begoña Gómez following a complaint filed by an ultra-conservative group

Pedro Sanchez
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez in Congress on Wednesday.Claudio Álvarez
Carlos E. Cué

From early in the morning, it was very evident that Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez was affected by a judge’s decision to open proceedings to investigate his wife, Begoña Gómez, in response to a complaint filed by the ultra-right group Manos Limpias (Clean Hands), which specializes in filing complaints against left-wing leaders in cases which usually amount to nothing. Sánchez left Congress visibly upset, and went to La Moncloa, the seat of government in Spain. The leader of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) locked himself away with his family and drafted a letter stating that he is seriously considering resigning after the “unprecedented attacks” against his wife. “I need to stop and reflect. I have to answer the question of whether it is worth it, whether I should continue at the head of the government or resign from this honor,” the president said in a “letter to citizens” posted on the social network X, without an official letterhead — a sign that it is a personal matter.

The prime minister sent the letter to his collaborators so that they could publish it, but he did not want to see anyone nor did he summon a crisis cabinet, as he did when he called early elections in 2023. Sánchez made the decision personally with his family, according to sources close to him. Practically nobody knew about it, and his main collaborators, a few hours before, were completely unaware of what was being forged. Shortly after the letter was made public, Sánchez’s inner circle — María Jesús Montero, Félix Bolaños, Santos Cerdán, Óscar Puente and Óscar López — met informally at La Moncloa to look for a solution, to try to convince the prime minister to continue, but all those who spoke to EL PAÍS have said that it is an absolutely personal decision and that there is a human factor which is difficult to control.

Sánchez has asked for time to think, and his entourage is determined to give him that time. Several officials in PSOE are considering organizing a large mobilization in support of the president and to reject the right-wing’s methods of attack. Some believe that Sánchez, upon seeing the support, will change his mind and decide to remain in power.

The prime minister recently expressed his support for other progressive politicians who have suffered the harassment of the far right, such as U.S. President Joe Biden and Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. He visited the two in Washington and Brasília and told them that it was essential to unite to confront the “international ultra-right.” Many PSOE members who spoke to EL PAÍS say that Sánchez’s decision not to directly announce his resignation, but rather announce a time of reflection of a few days, is cause for hope. But nobody really knows what Sánchez — who has been at the helm of the Socialist Party for 10 years and still has another three years in office ahead of him — will do.

The straw that broke the camel’s back is a case that La Moncloa says has no substance to it. It is the result of a complaint filed by an ultra-conservative group, whose leaders were sentenced to jail (and later acquitted) for extorting money from financial institutions. Sánchez has made it clear that attacks on his family take an especially hard toll on him. But he also recently told journalists that his opponents have thrown everything at him, but that he didn’t care because he was resolved to continue. However, something changed this Wednesday, and for the first time in a political career built on resistance, which has always highlighted his strength of spirit and his unwavering faith in success, Sánchez announced that he is thinking of quitting.

The leader of the PSOE said he is canceling his entire public agenda for a few days, until Monday, to reflect, talk to his family and make a decision. There is commotion in the government and in the PSOE, and both members of the executive and various party leaders have rushed to show their unconditional support for Sánchez on social media. Those close to the prime minister insist that it is not only a political issue, and that it is important to think about the human factor.

Precisely two weeks ago, former Spanish prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero — another Socialist who was also severely attacked by the opposition when he was in power — told EL PAÍS that he puts up with a lot, but Sánchez is tougher than him, arguing that this resilience was fundamental in a political scene as toxic as Spain’s. But in this case, Sánchez’s resilience appears not to have been enough.

He received a very hard blow, and his reaction, to seriously consider resigning, is unprecedented. But the end of this story has not yet been written. The PSOE has a dramatic weekend ahead, in which members will do everything to convince their leader to continue. Because nobody has a plan B. The whole project is built around him and his resistance, the one that has always saved not only Sánchez but his league of supporters in the most difficult moments. Nobody thought that the leader could break. Now it is up to his people to turn around an unthinkable situation, a new twist in the crazy Spanish political scene, in which making forecasts is not only risky, but almost ridiculous, given its unpredictability.

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