Contributed by Joe Montero
There has been another upset in the Spanish political scene. The bitter division that has plagued the Socialist Workers Party of Spain, (PSOE), otherwise known as the Socialist Party, has come to a head again.
Pedro Sanchez, who had been ousted last year, because the traditional machine and politicians considered him to be too radical, has made a comeback.
Sanchez’s opponents held that the biggest threat was the emergent Podemos and that the most important political task was to uphold the two-party system. On this basis, they voted to support the conservative Popular Party (PP) to form a minority government.
The strategy did not work. The Socialist Party has not been able to recapture much of its lost traditional base and internally, there is turmoil over a direction that allowed the PP to form a government after 10 months of crisis makes and a course that makes the Socialists look little different form its supposed rival.
Sanchez had been removed by what has been described by his supporters as a coup by the old leadership. After a vote of the membership, he has retaken the leadership gaining 50 percent of the vote, with his main rival Susana Diaz only managing to get 40 percent. This is all the more telling, because Diaz comes from the party stronghold in Andalusia and had the backing of heavyweights like former leaders and prime ministers Felipe Gonzales and Luis Zapatero. The former president of the Basque region came third with 10 percent.
Sanchez’s position is that the PP, under the leadership of Mariano Rajoy, is too corrupt to be allowed to continue to be the government.
Based on a successful grass roots campaign, Sanchez has been able to reignite greater activism and generate a push to more radical policies.
Sanchez had also been a proponent of greater dialogue with Podemos.
Despite the victory, change will not be so easy. The rift between the pro Sanchez and ant-Sanchez forces remain wide and neither side is about to give up. Given this, Sanchez can expect growing instability and attacks from the flank. He still must contend with the large number of members of parliament, who want things to remain as they were. His position is not to different from that of Jeremy Corbyn in Britain.
Instability within the Socialist Party has benefited Podemos, the staunchly grass roots and anti-austerity party. It has seized the initiative.
After spending months consolidating its political direction and strategy, Podemos tabled a no confidence motion on 19 May, to have the Rajoy government toppled. It does not expect to win when it is voted for, but it does expect to put pressure on the Socialist Party to act and this will serve as a test of its credibility within its own social base.
Podemos has enough seats to put forward a non-confidence motion, but not enough votes to get it over the line. It will be up to the Socialist Party to decide which way it is going to go and this will be a very public action.
Eglesias has said: “The corruption of the PP is not a storm (that will pass), it is a virus that infects the institutions of our country”.
The enlivened new Podemos strategy promoted by leader Pablo Eglesias is that it should not just be a party going for positions in parliament, but be immersed in the grass roots political movement, which is the mainstay for bringing about change.
This is where it aims to increase its base and win over those who are becoming disillusioned with the Socialist Party and others. There is already an alliance with the United left that seems to be getting stronger by the day.
Does this preclude an alliance with the Socialist Party? Not necessarily. But there is the problem that has been widely considered as part of the problem that has given rise to so much dissatisfaction with the two-party consensus that has dominated for decades. Under Sanchez, the Socialists would have to be seen to undergo a major change.
In fact, Eglesia’s argued within Podemos against the position of deputy leader Inigo Errejon and his supporters that the strategy should be to move closer to the Socialist Party and widen the base this way, as the main strategy for the future.