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Spanish socialist leader faces revolt over refusal to end – political deadlock

The Spanish socialist party was facing a leadership crisis on Wednesday night after half the executive committee resigned in a bid to force out Pedro Sánchez, raising the prospect of an end to the country’s nine-month political deadlock.

The PSOE leader’s dogged refusal to allow the conservative People’s party (PP) to form a minority government after two inconclusive general elections has angered many Spanish voters and left him increasingly isolated within his own party.

Sánchez had attempted to weather the criticism by suggesting a leadership contest could be held next month. Although he had intended to plead his case before a meeting of the party’s leaders on Saturday, his efforts were stymied on Wednesday afternoon after 17 members of the PSOE’s 38-strong executive committee suddenly resigned.

With the committee already depleted by a death and two previous resignations, the body no longer has the required 50% of members needed to carry out its duties, giving rise to speculation that it could be dissolved and placed in the hands of a caretaker team while the search for new leadership begins.

Sánchez, however, gave no sign of being prepared to step down.

Spanish socialist leader faces revolt over refusal to end - political deadlock
Spanish socialist leader faces revolt over refusal to end – political deadlock

On Wednesday night, César Luena, the PSOE’s organisational secretary, insisted that Sánchez remained its leader. He said that, in accordance with party rules, the remaining members of executive committee would meet on Thursday morning to discuss an extraordinary congress in which the party would hold a leadership contest and vote to elect a new executive committee.

He said the congress would allow dissidents within the party to vote, adding that was what Sánchez had been proposing since the beginning of the week.

“In these difficult and unprecedented moments in the internal life of the PSOE, and in the name of the federal executive committee, I call on the members to be calm,” he said.

Luena also reminded them that the party’s private dramas were being played out in public. “Spaniards are watching us and we must show them that we can work out our differences democratically and according to the rules,” he said.

The move came after former PSOE leader Felipe González – who led the party to four successive election victories in the 1980s and 90s – publicly admonished Sánchez for apparently going back on a commitment to allow Mariano Rajoy’s PP to form a government.

González said that when the two met after the June election, Sánchez had told him that the PSOE would abstain in the second investiture vote, thereby facilitating the PP’s move to office.

“Obviously, I feel deceived and disappointed,” he told Cadena Ser radio. “The PSOE should abstain and that’s what I’m saying very strongly today.”

Sánchez responded by saying that while he respected González’s opinion, he wasn’t going to speak publicly about private conversations.

The PSOE leader has found himself under even greater pressure this week following the party’s feeble performance in regional elections in Galicia and the Basque country, where it was overtaken by the anti-austerity party Podemos, which is set on displacing the socialists as the dominant force of the Spanish left.

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