• Spain's news in English

Spain's battered socialist party seeks new leader

AFP/The Local · 11 Jul 2014, 08:59

Published: 11 Jul 2014 08:59 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Voters turfed the Socialists party — Spain's largest opposition party — out of seven years in power in a crushing November 2011 election defeat, punishing them for a recession, mushrooming debt and sky-high joblessness.

Even now, after nearly three years of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's conservative government ramming through unpopular austerity policies, the Socialists have failed to claw back popular support.

Indeed, their position may be even more precarious: in elections for Spain's seats in the European Parliament on May 25, the Socialists attracted a paltry 23 percent of the vote, losing nine of their 23 seats.

It was the final blow for their secretary general, Alfredo Rubalcaba, a wily 62-year-old career politician who announced his departure the next day.

Now the Socialists are hoping to put on an attractive new face.

The Handsome One

A front runner in the three-way leadership race is a telegenic, dark-haired 42-year-old economist and member of parliament Pedro Sánchez — popularly known as El Guapo, or The Handsome One.

Sánchez was endorsed by 41,338 party members to become an official candidate in Sunday's direct election by the party's nearly 200,000 members.

He has emerged as a serious challenger to 38-year-old Eduardo Madina from the Basque country, who lost the lower half of his left leg in a 2002 bomb attack carried out by the Basque separatist terror group Eta.

Madina, the leader of the Socialist bloc in the lower house of parliament, garnered 25,238 endorsements for his candidacy.

The third candidate, 59-year-old José Antonio Pérez Tapias — a party veteran and university professor from in the southern Spanish city of Granada — who favours a swing to the left, was endorsed by 9,912 party members.

Even if Sánchez wins, he will need more than chiselled features to give the 135-year-old centre-left Socialist Party a shot at power.

Spain's conservative ABC newspaper described Sánchez as a reformer who challenges German-style economic austerity and pursues a Socialist message without ceding to populism.

He faces a huge challenge to change the party's fortunes, however.

In the doldrums

The party has been stuck in the doldrums since then premier José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero stepped down in 2011, accused of reacting too slowly to an unfolding economic crisis, which has left one in four people out of work.

"What is clear is that we have not regained citizens' trust, in part because lots of people are having a hard time, and they have been having a hard time for a while. In fact, they started having hard times when we were in government," Rubalcaba, who was previously Zapatero's deputy, admitted in May.

Story continues below…

As in austerity-hit Greece, smaller insurgent parties that tapped into voter discontent with traditional politics were the main winners in the European vote that prompted this weekend's Socialist Party leadership elections.

Even as the Socialists slumped, Podemos, a new left-wing party born out of Spain's "Indignant" movement against economic inequality, won five seats in Europe's parliament.

Whoever wins on Sunday, the Socialist Party members' choice must be validated by an extraordinary party Congress of party delegates, to be held July 26th-27th in Madrid.

Complicating matters further, the Socialist Party's candidate for prime minister in the 2015 elections will be chosen by a separate, direct poll of party members in November, a scheme endorsed by all three of the party leadership candidates.

Tapias, however, will not run in the election for the prime minister's job if voted to become party leader. In a recent debate between the three candidates for the leadership job, he said the two jobs should not be held by the same person.

For more news from Spain, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.es)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Recipe: How to make fabada - traditional Asturian bean stew
Photo: Flavio Lorenzo Sánchez/Flickr

The hearty Asturian dish is a perfect lunch on a cold day... and don't forget the crusty bread and cider!

Brit 'paedo' held on Costa del Sol after Most Wanted appeal

One of Britain's most wanted fugitives was arrested on the Costa Del Sol following a tip-off from an expat just hours after his face appeared on a public appeal.

Spain's parliament approves deficit reduction measures
Photo: Images Money/Flickr

Spanish lawmakers approved on Thursday measures to reduce the public deficit and keep it under the target agreed with the European Union.

'Cubism and War' show opens at Barcelona Picasso Museum
Pablo Picasso Harlequin and Woman with a Necklace. Photo: MP

Barcelona's Picasso Museum unveiled an exhibition on "Cubism and War" on Thursday depicting how one of the most influential artistic styles of the 20th century survived the First World War.

Why this bionic limb pioneer doesn't believe in disability
Hugh Herr has been award Spain's top science prize. Photo: FPA

The Local speaks to Hugh Herr on winning Spain's top science prize and how being an amputee doesn't make him disabled.

Dine in the buff at Spain's first nudist restaurant
A buffet of organic food will be served on "human tables". Photo: Innato / Facebook

Spain's first naked dining experience is to arrive on the island of Tenerife following the success of a similar venture in London.

Spain's top court overturns bullfighting ban in Catalonia
Photo: AFP

Spain's Constitutional Court on Thursday cancelled a bullfighting ban in Catalonia in what is likely to exacerbate tensions between Madrid and the separatist region, and between animal activists and fans of the tradition.

Out of the dark: Five years on from Eta ceasefire
Eta members made a ceasefire declaration in January, 2011. Photo: Gara / AFP

Five years after armed separatist group Eta declared a permanent ceasefire, Basque journalist Alberto Letona is still wondering when the dialogue will begin.

Hunt for ten most wanted Brit fugitives hiding out in Spain
Call Crimestoppers if you recognize these faces.

These fugitives from British justice are thought to be hiding out in Spain. Do you recognize anyone?

Eta 'not dead' but Spain focus moves onto jihadism
Archive photo of a pro-mural in the Basque Country. Photo: AFP

Five years after Eta quit violence, the Basque separatist group has yet to dissolve but it poses little threat and authorities have shifted their focus to fight jihadists, says Spain's chief anti-terrorism prosecutor.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Celebrate expat life at Madrid’s THRIVE convention
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Disney announces plans for Don Quixote action movie
Activist tells 8-yr-old matador wannabe with cancer 'just die'
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
King to make last minute push to avoid third vote in Spain
Amazing photos of Catalonia's 'human tower' contest
What's on in Spain: October 2016
'No way, Jose! You'll never get your hands on our Rock'
Recipe: How to make a classic Spanish tortilla de patatas
Chorizo in paella? Go back to cooking school Jamie Oliver
Spain in eye of a perfect storm after 10 months without govt
Thousands share clips of life for 'Spain in a Day' film
Ten incredible Spain locations for Game of Thrones season 7
Analysis & Opinion
Why moving to Spain could be the best decision of your life
Seven reasons why autumn is the very best season in Spain
Spanish study finds four types of personality. Which are you?
New search underway for civil war grave of poet Lorca
Bison found decapitated on Valencia nature reserve
Forgotten Voices: What Brits in Spain think about Brexit
One dead and 14 injured in blast at Spanish resort
Game of Thrones want extras 'with muscles' to film in Spain
Thousands march in Madrid to push for bullfighting ban
Spanish team invents hands-free 'penis bidet'
In pics: Devastation caused by Costa Blanca wildfires
jobs available