Wednesday, May 24, 2017

All At Sea: PSOE

So, 231 days after resigning as the general secretary of the party, Pedro Sánchez swept back to power with a landslide victory. He is PSOE's Theresa May (as will no doubt be), though whether he proves to be anything more than a Corbyn will be discovered. One thing is for sure - possibly, perhaps even probably - is that Pedro will take a Jezza jump to the left. That's why he was elected. Wasn't it?

Actually, it wasn't as much of a landslide as Thezza can anticipate in Referendum Mark II, but land slid sufficiently from beneath Susana Díaz that she was hurled backwards from Madrid all the way to her Andalusian homeland and landed with a bump, together with the bruising of only having gained 39.94% of the vote (pity about the 0.6%; round numbers are so much more satisfying).

Pedro won the day with 50.21%. The other candidate, Patxi López, came nowhere, except in his native Basque Country. Once the recipient of the dubious backing of Francina Armengol, even that evaporated as the Balearic president sensed the direction in which the tide was flowing. It was dragging Patxi well offshore. He duly drowned in the depths of the more than 133,000 combined votes for Pedro and Susana. His own tally? 14,571, most of them marked Basque.

An odd thing to note is that Pedro won in every region of Spain except for two - Susana's Andalusia and Patxi's Basque Country. It is odd insofar as Susana got as close as she did: some 15,000 votes fewer. It is less odd when you appreciate that PSOE militants are heavily weighted way down south. Andalusia is socialist land and always has been since democracy arrived in Spain.

One needs to explain that the militants are not necessarily militants of a Derek Hatton type. It's the word the Spanish use for members. And it is, I would suggest, important to understand that, of the nearly 75,000 who voted for Pedro, only a certain (and small) percentage might truly fall into the category of rabid left-wingers. Yes, there was discontent with the cosying up to the Partido Popular, i.e having enabled Rajoy's last-minute investiture in October, but that doesn't mean that all those thousands are like-minded descendants of the nineteenth-century founder of PSOE, the original Pablo Iglesias. The current-day Pablo Iglesias of Podemos might be considered a more appropriate descendant.

It is true that the rank and file felt that they had been sold out. Sánchez got a drubbing at the federal committee and had no option but to stand down. The issue was whether or not to break the electoral impasse and facilitate Rajoy's passage back to the premiership. Sánchez lost. The militants have now had their revenge. Moreover, they have ensured that they will not be delivered into the hands of Diazistas and the Andalusian socialist mafia.

She had former premiers on her side, but the support of González and Zapatero counted for too little in the face of that discontent. For many, once a socialist (even a moderate one), always a socialist: deals with the PP don't comply with this legacy. And deals with Díaz don't comply with how many of the militants feel. Take those in Catalonia, for instance. Recently, I wrote about the longstanding animosity between the two regions (which owes only something to politics). It was there for all to see in the Catalonia vote: 82% for Sánchez, 11% for Díaz. Crushing, one might say.

For Francina in the Balearics, having thrown Patxi overboard and clambered on board the good ship Pedro, 71% of the Balearic vote in his favour will enable her to express solidarity with the militant citizenship of Balearic PSOE. Her good judgement (opportunism) in abandoning Patxi might yet lead her to national government. In her dreams. But with Pedro's win, we return to the uncharted territory in which Spain has been adrift since the end of 2015 and the first of the inconclusive elections. Is another election looming?

Podemos, i.e. Pablo Iglesias, would prefer that there wasn't an election. Preparing to present a vote of no confidence in Rajoy, Iglesias is also preparing to ask Congress that he should be invested as prime minister. He really knows how to stir the pot and how also to try and grasp power at a time when electorally Podemos appear to have plateaued and may only have one future way to go. Sánchez will be cajoled by the likes of Francina into a pact for "progressive" government, citing how good the relationship with Podemos in the Balearics has been. At which point, any sensible observer will burst out laughing.

Pedro, though, will not himself be laughing. He was unpersuaded by Iglesias before. Why should he be any different now, especially if a grasp on the premiership were to be denied him? The good ship Pedro has set sail again, but PSOE remain all at sea.

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