Only one result could shake the political game: The former socialist Secretary Pedro Sánchez, ousted by the party barons six months ago, won the Socialist Party of Spain primaries on Saturday. And against all odds, against almost all the elders of the PSOE, against the editors of major newspapers (starting with the former philo-socialist newspaper El País), against the wishes of PP and Podemos, the majority of Socialist party members (out of an extraordinary 80 percent participation) chose the outsider, former secretary and former MP Sánchez.
The battle was bloody. Susana Díaz, the running favorite, enjoyed the support of the powerful Andalusian Federation (where she is the regional president) and all regional leaders, with the exception of Catalonia and the Balearic Islands. She had the support of all former secretaries and the former socialist presidents of government. The third candidate, the former Basque President and President of Congress in the short previous term, Patxi López, and also a former ally of Sánchez, was backed by the Basque federation.
In the end, the treatment Sánchez’s enemies inflicted on him in recent months, turned out to be a gift. The socialist militants have chosen the victim of the intrigues of party bureaucrats, the heroic MP who’d rather than voting for Rajoy, chose to resign, the only one who, against his own centrist curriculum, could have saved the leftist soul of the party. Seventy-four thousand militants, more than 50 percent, voted for him. Fewer than 40 percent voted for Diaz and nearly 10 percent supported the third wheel López. But the most surprising fact, significant in the climate that reigns in the party, is that Diaz was the only one who got fewer votes than the number of signatures that supported her candidacy (especially in Andalusia).
It is not enough: All the Socialist regional presidents supporting Díaz (with the exception of the Andalusian case, where the leader imposed herself) were disowned by their militants. It will be difficult to heal these wounds. In a month, the congress will formally crown Sánchez, this time much stronger, and he will renew the charges. But everyone knows that Diaz is ready to deploy her troops.
The PP has never made a secret of preferring Díaz as an adversary, since she is perceived as far more malleable. Although among the parliamentarians, Sánchez’ followers are a minority, the PSOE will now be less willing to come to terms with Rajoy, who might be tempted to convene an early election.
Also Podemos hoped for Díaz, so it could assert to be the only real left party. But the purple politicians have cleverly encased Sánchez’ victory: the first move was to show a willingness to withdraw the no-confidence motion against the PP on which Podemos and its allies have been building their entire political strategy in recent weeks, “provided that the PSOE will present another.” He had promised it to Sánchez binding it, however, to a “real chance of success.”
On Saturday, Izquierda Unida and Podemos had gathered a large crowd in the emblematic Puerta del Sol square, in support of the motion. Without Ciudadanos, it is difficult (but not impossible) to overthrow Rajoy’s government.
But now the ball is in Sánchez’ court. Even the Catalans are ready to collect on the massive support they provided to him: more than 80 percent of them supported the madrileño leader, more than in any other community. On Monday, a leaked version of the “juridical transition” law, on which the Catalan MPs have been working on secretly, aims to lay the foundations for a new state: the separatists seem to be serious and, according to the text, they are ready to unilaterally declare independence if they do not get a referendum soon. Madrid must urgently take some political action. Apart from Unidos Podemos, the only politician who had opened some slight crack was precisely Sánchez.
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