• Susana Díaz criticizes party leader, calls for abstention enabling Rajoy gov’t
• Regional barons, ex-party presidents lining up against Pedro Sánchez strategy
Factions within the Socialist party (PSOE) favoring a return to government of acting-Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s conservative Partido Popular (PP) — so the PSOE can take up the role of chief opposition party and shore up its flagging electoral fortunes — have stepped up pressure on party leader Pedro Sánchez with calls for a Socialist party abstention in Congressional voting that would allow Rajoy to return to power and avoid a third-round general election in December.
The months-old strategy of Sánchez’s core federal leadership team has been to vote ‘No’ to Rajoy, making it as difficult for the PP leader as possible to assemble the number of votes needed to form a government. Following Rajoy’s failed investiture bid last month, Sanchez has been holding out hopes for a progressive coalition of change and democratic renewal with centre-right Ciudadanos and anti-austerity party Podemos (We Can) — though some say Sanchez’s real strategy is to force a third election in order to deal a knockout blow to left-wing rival Podemos, currently in political disarray after losing more than a million votes in the general election held on 26th June.
In recent weeks, a handful of regional PSOE party ‘barons’ have been increasingly vocal about their desire for the PSOE to abstain in Congressional voting to avoid a third general election, adding their voices to those of party luminaries that include former Spanish prime ministers Felipe González and José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, as well as ex-PSOE general secretary Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba.
Earlier this week, Extremadura regional party leader Guillermo Fernández Vara told reporters he had been effectively silenced in his calls for a PSOE Federal Committee meeting to discuss the party leadership’s strategy. Despite the Sanchez team’s immediate denial that it had sought to silence Vara in any way, Vara’s comments brought an immediate flood of support from other regional leaders — prompting some to see the incident as a convenient pretext for PSOE barons and the party establishment to ramp up a pressure campaign against Sánchez.
Moving quickly to establish her position at the forefront of the critics was the the Andalucian PSOE leader Susana Díaz, seen as Sánchez’s main rival for the party leadership, who on Wednesday told news media that she believes it is impossible for Sánchez to put together an alternative government with Ciudadanos and Podemos and that the PSOE should abstain and settle into its role as leader of the opposition for another four-year Rajoy term as prime minister.
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