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Pedro Sánchez retakes control of Spain’s deeply divided Socialist Party

Scoring 50% of the vote, leader who walked out last year sees off challenge in primaries

Spain’s Socialists (PSOE) have decided that Pedro Sánchez will be their secretary general once again. In a vote held on Sunday at party primaries, Sánchez beat out his main rival Susana Díaz by more than 10 percentage points and 15,000 votes, securing around 50% of all votes. Díaz attracted 40% support and Patxi López came last with 10%.

Pedro Sanchez
Pedro Sánchez (center) with Susana Díaz and Patxi López after winning the primaries on Sunday. AFP

It was an upset victory over the frontrunner Díaz, who had secured more party endorsements than Sánchez at an earlier party consultation, and who had campaigned on a platform of change from Sánchez’s earlier policies.

The move ends eight months of limbo for the PSOE, which has been under an interim management since early October, when Sánchez resigned as secretary general following a dramatic vote at party headquarters.

With that vote, held as Spain was facing a record third general election if a congressional stalemate was not broken, the party decided it would no longer block Mariano Rajoy, of the conservative Popular Party (PP), from becoming reinstated as prime minister. Sánchez had strongly opposed such a move.

Nothing is ending today; rather, everything is beginning

Pedro Sánchez

“Nothing is ending today; instead, everything is beginning,” said Sánchez at around 11.30pm on Sunday at party headquarters on Ferraz street, in Madrid. “We are going to uphold our mandate to make the PSOE this country’s leftist party. My commitment remains firm: to unite the party.”

Sánchez made a point of addressing “the millions of progressives to let them know that the party of the left is right here.”

But while Sánchez may feel vindicated following Sunday’s victory, he now faces the daunting task of patching together a deeply divided party that appears to have lost touch with Spanish society, in view of its dismal results at the last two general elections, when it lost a significant share of votes to Podemos, the new protest party that defines itself as Spain’s true left.

All three candidates posed briefly for the cameras, but the political and personal divisions were clearly on display

There was a great deal of expectation regarding Díaz’s reaction to her defeat. The Andalusian premier had conducted an aggressive campaign that blamed Sánchez for the PSOE’s poor performance at the polls, and her superiority in endorsements had appeared to give her an edge over her rival.

Looking serious, Díaz made a short appearance to thank everyone who voted for her, and said that she and her team were ready to “do our share” to push forward “a coherent project.”

Sánchez must now patch together a party that appears to have lost touch with Spanish society

All three candidates posed briefly for the cameras, but the political and personal divisions were clearly on display. While Sánchez warmly held hands with Patxi López, the former Basque premier who was the third candidate in the running, Díaz quickly pulled hers away.

Díaz and her team were evidently dismayed at the fact that despite their efforts and the enormous internal party crisis, party supporters were making Sánchez their leader again for the second time in three years.

English version by Susana Urra.

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