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SPANISH POLITICS

After walking out on Spain’s Socialists, ex-party leader gets a second chance

Pedro Sánchez secures enough endorsements to become a strong candidate to win party primaries

Madrid / Jerez de la Frontera

Surprise was the prevailing feeling within Spain’s Socialist Party (PSOE) following a vote to choose the candidates who will vie to become the next secretary general of the main opposition party. Whereas the strong performance by Andalusian premier Susana Díaz, who obtained 63,610 endorsements on Thursday, had been widely expected, she is only 6,300 signatures ahead of Pedro Sánchez, who served as secretary general before walking out last October in a dramatic decision that created a major rift within Spain’s oldest political party.

Posters supporting all three candidates to head the PSOE.
Posters supporting all three candidates to head the PSOE. EFE

Patxi López, a former Basque premier who also served as speaker of Congress, came in a distant third with 12,000 endorsements. Turnout was significant, with party members in Andalusia mostly backing Díaz (26,551 compared with 8,818 for her nearest rival) and Catalan ones preferring Sánchez (6,058 versus 974 for Díaz). The results are currently being verified.

I believe we are standing on the threshold of a new party

Pedro Sánchez, candidate

All three candidates will run against each other at the party primaries scheduled for May 21, when a new leader will take over from the interim management team that has been heading the PSOE since Sánchez’s sudden departure late last year. At the time, Spain was in a protracted political stalemate following two general elections, and some PSOE leaders felt it would be better to let Mariano Rajoy, of the Popular Party (PP), get reinstated to a second term in office rather than push the country into a record third election.

Sánchez, who fought that decision and resigned when his views were rejected, on Thursday expressed his satisfaction at this new opportunity to head the PSOE once more.

Susana Díaz in a flamenco dress at the Feria de Abril in Seville.
Susana Díaz in a flamenco dress at the Feria de Abril in Seville. EFE

“[I am] overwhelmed by this support,” he said at a rally in the Andalusian city of Jerez de la Frontera. “I believe we are standing on the threshold of a new party that is going to leave behind the days when things were decided by a handful of people, and become a party where everyone gets to decide.”

Looking forward to May 21, he added: “We’re going to win the primaries that day.”

Díaz also expressed surprise at the results. “I wasn’t expecting so much; the response has been infinitely greater than I thought it would be, and it is an encouragement to keep working,” she said in Salamanca.

English version by Susana Urra.

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