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Former Socialist Party leader resigns as deputy over refusal to back Rajoy

Pedro Sánchez gives up his seat in congress but hints at future leadership run

Pedro Sanchez Ampliar foto
Pedro Sánchez in the Spanish Congress on Saturday.

The former leader of Spain’s Socialist Party (PSOE), Pedro Sánchez, gave up his seat in Congress on Saturday, just hours before an investiture vote that saw Mariano Rajoy voted back in as the country’s new prime minister at the head of a minority Popular Party (PP) government.

During a brief appearance before journalists, an emotional Sánchez had to hold back tears several times as he said he wasn’t resigning from politics but would instead become “one rank and file member” more.

Sánchez has hinted he may be drumming up support for a future run at the leadership

Explaining his “painful” decision to give up his seat, Sánchez said he was in “profound disagreement” with the decision of the party’s federal committee to allow the PP back into power by abstaining in Saturday’s critical investiture vote.

“I won’t go against my party or against my electoral promises,” said Sánchez, referring to the stark choice offered to him by the federal committee that has been in control of the party since Sánchez was forced out the top job.

The youthful Sánchez resigned as Socialist party chief in early October after a noisy rebellion by members of his executive committee forced his hand over Spain’s political 10-month long stalemate.

Sánchez had repeatedly argued that allowing Rajoy to become prime minister by abstaining in an investiture vote went against PSOE principles and the wishes of millions of voters.

The PP was the most-voted party at an inconclusive general election held in December 2015, and a repeat poll in June of this year. But despite winning most seats in Congress, the PP was unable to find the support needed to see acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy voted back in to office.

This was largely due to Sánchez’s refusal to abstain in the second round of an investiture vote, prompting growing calls within the PSOE for a deal to be struck to avoid Spain facing an unprecedented third general election.

But Sánchez hinted he would not be leaving the limelight just yet.

I won’t go against my party or against my electoral promises

Pedro Sánchez

“On Monday I will get in my car and travel all over Spain to listen to those who haven’t been listened to, to the grassroots members and left-wing voters,” said Sánchez, suggesting he may be drumming up support for a future run at the leadership of the embattled party at the next PSOE conference.

The party has yet to set a date for that conference but it is expected to take place for at least six months.

In a final parting shot at the PSOE federal committee on Saturday, Sánchez asked that the 15 Socialist deputies who had broken ranks to vote ‘no’ to a government led by Rajoy should not be expelled. He also said the party should not split with the Socialists’ Party of Catalonia (PSC) over its decision to reject the committee's move to abstain in the investiture vote.

English version by George Mills.

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